McCartney murder hunt focuses on Sinn Fein as party suspends seven

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The Independent Online

Sinn Fein has suspended seven members who were allegedly involved in the incident in which a Belfast Catholic man was stabbed to death in a pub brawl.

Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president, said the names of seven were being passed on to the Police Ombudsman, who is expected to forward them to the police. Both moves are virtually unprecedented in republican terms since they strongly suggest that not only IRA but also Sinn Fein personnel were involved in the events surrounding the death of Robert McCartney.

The IRA has already expelled three of its members, described as high-ranking republicans, following the killing. The Sinn Fein move confirms the belief that the republican movement is taking emergency action following huge recent blows to its standing.

Mr Adams said the seven Sinn Fein names had been given to him by the McCartney family, which has been waging a high-profile campaign to have the dead man's killers brought to justice. The Sinn Fein president said he had given the names to a solicitor to be passed on to the Police Ombudsman, Nuala O'Loan. Since these will be given to the police, this chain will be seen as the head of Sinn Fein giving information, indirectly but deliberately, to police.

Mr Adams said he was "deeply angry" about the alleged involvement of a number of republicans in the killing of Mr McCartney, adding: "All of those involved in this horrific incident must make themselves fully accountable for their actions. Nothing short of this is acceptable."

Mark Durkan, the nationalist SDLP leader, said the suspensions had borne out his party's claim for the past month that Sinn Fein members were involved. He accused Sinn Fein of adopting an approach of trying to see what they could get away with. He added: "The real question is not whether people are suspended from Sinn Fein.

"It is whether or not those responsible for the murder of Robert McCartney are brought to justice. For that to happen the intimidation that is ongoing has to end. Nothing less than that will do."