The McCartney sisters of Belfast, whose brother, Robert, who was murdered outside an Irish pub in January, were due to win an award. But when they found out Baroness Thatcher would also be recognised for a lifetime of achievement, they refused to take part in the ceremony.
Claire and Catherine McCartney had travelled from Northern Ireland to London to accept an award on behalf of all the sisters and Robert's fiancée Bridgeen Hagans. The award for outstanding achievement recognised their tireless campaign to bring his killers to justice.
But, on seeing the 80-year-old former Tory British Prime Minister, they pulled out. "Our campaign is one of justice," the sisters said. "As an Irish republican family we feel we cannot share a platform with a former Prime Minister who inflicted injuries on our country."
The organisers of the award said: "The McCartney sisters regret that they must decline the Women of the Year outstanding achievement award, sponsored by Good Housekeeping, due to circumstances they only became aware of this morning. However Women of the Year would like to reiterate they are proud to recognise their remarkable achievements and offer them all our support."
The McCartney sisters persisted in claims that members of the IRA were responsible for the fatal stabbing, in the face of fierce intimidation.
Their efforts also took them to the White House, where they met President Bush. They were given a Pride of Britain award last month, which was presented by Prime Minister Tony Blair with a video address from former US President Bill Clinton.
The ceremony continued with a lunch at the Guildhall in London, and the award was presented with the McCartney sisters in absentia. Tina Turner won the Woman of the Year Award and the Window to the World Award was won by Claire Bertschinger, the Red Cross nurse who inspired Live Aid.
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