McCartney murder case: man charged

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The Independent Online

A man has been charged with the murder of Robert McCartney, who was stabbed outside a bar in Belfast in January by suspected members of the IRA.

Police said a second man would also be charged with the attempted murder of Brendan Devine who was with Mr McCartney on the night of the killing outside Magennis's bar.

The men, who were arrested on Wednesday in Belfast and Birmingham, are aged 36 and 49 and are understood to be from Northern Ireland. They will appear before Belfast magistrates this morning.

Mr McCartney, who was 33 and had two children, was drinking in the bar in the Markets district of the city, with Mr Devine on 30 January when a row broke out. He was dragged outside and beaten and stabbed and his body left in an alleyway. He died the following day in hospital. Mr Devine was left seriously injured.

Since his murder, Mr McCartney's partner Bridgeen Hagans and his five sisters have mounted a high-profile campaign to bring his killers to justice, and lobbied politicians to support their cause, travelling to the United States in March to meet President George Bush at the White House.

They also held meetings with the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern and the US envoy to Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss.

Last month members of the European Parliament voted in support of a motion to grant the family funds to pursue a civil action against Mr McCartney's suspected killers if a criminal prosecution failed.

The insistence of the McCartney family - who are traditional Sinn Fein supporters - that members of the IRA were involved in the killing, has brought them into conflict with Republicans. Last month they received threats which police said came from organised criminal elements.

The charges mark a breakthrough in a case that has overshadowed the already uncertain peace process. Police investigations have also been hampered by a lack of co-operation from elements of the Republican movement, which have closed ranks in the aftermath of the £26.5m Christmas raid on the Northern Bank in Belfast, which police have blamed on the Provisionals.

Under pressure from the family the IRA expelled three men and Sinn Fein suspended several party members who were in the bar at the time and who allegedly failed to act on Gerry Adams' demands to disclose what they knew or saw.