Belfast Telegraph

Fionola Meredith: Deniers and enablers: how politicians let down family of victim Robert McCartney

Blank denials, platitudes and virtue-signalling are no use to those like the McCartney sisters, says Fionola Meredith

When I spoke to Catherine McCartney about the appointment of Deirdre Hargey as Sinn Fein's first female Lord Mayor, she was angry. Searingly angry, as only a victim who has been thwarted, ostracised and perpetually denied justice can be.

Catherine's brother Robert was murdered by members of the IRA outside Magennis's bar in Belfast in 2005. The brutal killing remains unsolved. Our new Lord Mayor was in Magennis's on that night in 2005 but, like everyone else who was present, she has always maintained that she saw nothing - absolutely zilch - of the fight that broke out in the small bar, which spilled outside and ended in bloody murder.

As far as Catherine and her family are concerned, Councillor Hargey's stance is a grotesque insult, recently compounded by her extension of "sincere condolences" to the McCartneys when she was appointed as mayor.

If Hargey cares so much about getting justice for the family - to whom she has never reached out once, over the last 13 years - why doesn't she go straight to the PSNI and give them a full account of where she sat and who she saw?

As Catherine McCartney said: "The 'I saw nothing' line is not good enough for someone who is now First Citizen of Belfast."

I was also struck by McCartney's take on the people she calls "the enablers": politicians in other parties who seem to shy away from actively tackling Sinn Fein.

She said: "The Alliance party and the SDLP - who were actually very supportive of us at the time of the murder - why did they not ask questions before they endorsed Deirdre Hargey as mayor? Why did they not say to her - 'can you assure us that you have done everything that you possibly could?'"

McCartney told me that when she saw politicians smiling and getting their photographs taken with the new Lord Mayor at City Hall, she thought: "Have these people got no conscience?"

Responding to McCartney's words on Twitter, the Alliance party leader Naomi Long said that the McCartneys deserve justice for Robert and that Hargey must cooperate fully with the police. She also pointed out that Sinn Fein, not Alliance or the SDLP, chose Hargey as Lord Mayor. "We'll respect the office of Lord Mayor as we always do, regardless of the individual who wears the chain, but we didn't put her there and to suggest we had any role in that is unfair and untrue," tweeted Long.

Well, McCartney didn't suggest that. She queried whether the other parties had pressed hard for answers about the level of Hargey's cooperation with the investigation.

When your brother has been executed and left dying in the street, that's not such an unreasonable request, is it?

Instead we have the ever-progressive Naomi Long getting on her high horse to deliver a short, self-righteous lecture on fairness and truth to a woman who has been treated entirely without fairness and truth.

The new Deputy Lord Mayor, Emmet McDonough-Brown, also took to Twitter to complain: "Sad really that no unionist spoke to welcome Deirdre or I into our new civic roles. I directly addressed the need to work for reconciliation even when it makes us uncomfortable and regardless of what others say or do, that's what I will do this year."

Honestly, I don't know how Catherine McCartney contains her temper when she reads such pompous, self-regarding drivel. The virtue-signalling is frantic. But this is not about working for reconciliation, it's about political rug-sweeping and the abdication of moral duty.

Look, I understand that we all have to take a pragmatic approach to Sinn Fein, whatever horrors its members have defended in the past. There was Prince Charles shaking hands with Gerry Kelly in Belfast this week, just to remind us.

But the murder of Robert McCartney remains unresolved. It is not over, it doesn't belong to the past. It happened as recently as 2005, in the middle of the so-called peace process. And the moral and political onus on Hargey to act is still greater since, in the absence of Stormont, Belfast City Council is our foremost elected body.

There is a photograph from this year's International Women's Day of the then Lord Mayor, Nuala McAllister of the Alliance Party, with her arms round the shoulders of Deirdre Hargey and Aileen Graham of the DUP. They are holding a sign that says 'Leave No Woman Behind'.

I'll tell you six women who have been left behind. Their names are Paula, Donna, Claire, Gemma, Catherine and Bridgeen. The sisters and fiancee of Robert McCartney.

When will it be their time for fairness, justice and truth?

Belfast Telegraph

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