Transformation: 'You think of Robert and what they did to him, and that makes you go on'

Life changed for Catherine McCartney and her sisters in 2005, the murder of their brother turning them into the bravest campaigners in the country
Click to follow
The Independent Online

In a way it hasn't really hit us at all yet. The past year has been surreal, very hard to describe. The reality of what has happened still hasn't really registered with any of us.

Actually it doesn't even seem like a year - it seems like it's only been a few weeks. Because we've had to embark on the campaign we haven't really had time to grieve personally. Campaigning has been so mentally and physically exhausting that our lives, in terms of work and family, have been turned upside down.

It has affected us in different ways. Some of us haven't been able to keep at bay the depression, the feeling of being very low, though others have. For example, my older sister, I know, is finding it particularly difficult. By contrast my sister Paula and myself would try to keep it at bay in order to do what we do.

So it has affected everyone in different ways. But it's not something we would really sit down and discuss. As a family, we sit down and analyse and discuss things, but when it comes to grief it's very hard to express how you feel.

It has interfered a lot with my life. I'm only able to do a part-time job, nothing else. It's very hard to commit to anything else when you've got this going on in your head every day.

Obviously we've met a lot of people and had support from a lot of people and that has helped us in terms of the campaign. But there have been no highlights at all during the year, definitely not - there's nothing I enjoyed or [where I] was glad that I was there.

In terms of the investigation into Robert's murder, more people eventually came forward. Because of our campaign, they felt that they should speak out and tell what they knew. Any time we hear of the investigation proceeding we feel it's been worthwhile.

But at the moment only one man has been charged with Robert's murder. Police have told us, and in fact we knew from the beginning, that there were up to 15 involved in the whole incident, with about eight or nine people in the street on the night Robert was attacked and stabbed.

So the fact that after nearly a year only one man has been charged is very disheartening and frustrating. We hope to see more charges - we've said from the start that we want anybody who played any part to be held to account.

In Robert's case, I don't think anybody would qualify for a short sentence under existing legislation, but to be honest it wouldn't surprise me in any way if deals were done to try and make that happen.

I wouldn't like to consider that anybody involved in a murder that was connected to a paramilitary organisation would get an amnesty. No way - I would not accept that for one minute.

The IRA have decommissioned, but decommissioning was never something that we cared about. Robert wasn't killed with a gun, he was killed with a knife, and the IRA certainly haven't decommissioned their power or the grip they have on communities.

We are only looking at one issue; other people are maybe seeing the bigger picture. But I think the IRA found it easier to swallow decommissioning than to hand over the people who murdered Robert. To me the message is that if you're a republican you're not going to be subjected to the rule of law.

I would say that the IRA and Sinn Fein haven't done anything. They have reinstated members of Sinn Fein who they know are not cooperating directly with the police, who went through the Police Ombudsman's office.

I don't care what their arguments are: a man was murdered. It's not acceptable for people, who may one day may want to seek power in this country, to be passing solicitors' notes through the Ombudsman in terms of a murder investigation.

Sinn Fein called on people to come forward, but to me that has always been to please the ears of the political parties, the British and Irish governments and the Americans. But tangibly, on the ground, they haven't done anything to encourage people to come forward - nothing.

Probably there is less media interest now; that's to be expected. But a lot of people are still watching it - the Americans are very interested because they see that if peace is to be achieved then the rule of law must apply. That's just the bottom line. We're meeting Tony Blair next week, so we don't want to speculate on the degree of his commitment and concern until we've met him.

But I wouldn't be surprised if the Government here do lose interest, because they obviously think that peace is all about nationalists and unionists not killing each other any more, and London not being bombed. And if that's not happening then everything's OK.

I think Christmas is probably going to be the worst time of the year. With Robert's two wee boys things are already very difficult at the minute, and Christmas hasn't even arrived yet. It will be very hard but you have to make some sort of effort for the kids.

Sometimes you do get exhausted, you feel like you're not getting anywhere and you do get very low. But then you just think of Robert and of what they did to him that night, and that just picks you up again and makes you go on.


Expectation is in the air with a general election looming, the EU preparing to accept ten more countries and London hoping to win the 2012 Olympics.


Alastair Campbell is back at No 10 to supervise Labour's election campaign... Michael Jackson tried on - and eventually acquitted of - 10 charges of child abuse.


Sudan 1 food colouring provokes a food safety scare... Controversial anti-terror powers become law after the longest parliamentary showdown in living memory.


Prince Charles and Camilla finally marry... Pope John Paul dies; his successor is 78-year-old Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI .


Ten more countries, including Latvia, Poland and Hungary, join the EU... Tony Blair's quest for historic third term reaches fruition with general election victory, though with reduced majority... The balance of power in the footballing world shifts as Chelsea become English football champions for first time since 1955 under new billionaire owner Roman Abramovich and Portuguese coach José Mourinho.


Make Poverty History campaign begins in earnest with demonstrations and celebrity "click" adverts... G8 leaders agree to release 18 poor countries from debt.


French say "non" to European constitution and Jacques Chiraq announces: "You can't trust people who cook as badly as [the British]"... Make Poverty History architect Bob Geldof announces: "Mission accomplished".


Era ends for Labour Party as Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam die... Ariel Sharon announces Israeli troops will withdraw from the Gaza Strip.


Kate Moss is pictured taking cocaine. She apologises and goes into rehab.


EU votes to allow Turkey - and its 70 million Muslim population - to become part of Europe...


After a rollercoaster year, David Blunkett resigns as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions... New law allows 24-hour drinking on premises that apply for a licence. Predicted chaos fails to ensue.


David Cameron, who started the year as a promising young Conservative MP with a distant connection to the Royals, ends it as leader of the Opposition by trouncing rival candidate David Davis after a lengthy campaign... Civil partnerships change life for many gay couples.