Catherine McCartney: At home, a killer was celebrating

Click to follow
The Independent Online

While the amount of press coverage my sisters and I have received during our week in the United States has been gratifying, it is not an end in itself. We came to the States as part of our campaign for justice for our brother Robert, who was murdered in a pub seven weeks ago but whose killers are still walking the streets.

While the amount of press coverage my sisters and I have received during our week in the United States has been gratifying, it is not an end in itself. We came to the States as part of our campaign for justice for our brother Robert, who was murdered in a pub seven weeks ago but whose killers are still walking the streets.

So what have we achieved? Certainly our welcome was remarkable. The President congratulated us on our courage and promised that he will raise Robert's case whenever he can, and particularly when he sees Tony Blair and the Irish premier, Bertie Ahern. Teddy Kennedy, too, has shown an exceptional willingness to help us. His is a pivotal role as he is the embodiment of Irish Americanism. Symbolically, his support is important. We were also grateful for his personal concern for our family, shown when, during our visit, he phoned our parents back in Belfast, who, having lost our brother Gerard four years ago and now having lost Robert, are understandably devastated. Having always been a huge fan of the Kennedys, I think they will have been very touched that he called.

We were also pleased to meet Hillary Clinton, the former presidential hopeful John McCain, Senator Chris Dodd, Peter King, probably Sinn Fein's biggest supporter in Congress, and the US Envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss. They all showed great enthusiasm for what we are trying to achieve.

But words don't get the job done. We are told from home that, shamelessly, one of Robert's killers was seen out in Belfast as part of the St Patrick's Day Parade. Another apparently summoned a boy to reprimand him, to show where authority still lies. These episodes emphasise that lawlessness is still top dog. There were, we believe, about 15 people involved in some way when Robert was kicked to death, yet, for all the fanfare we have received, no one has denounced them to the police.

So the need for the campaign is as great as ever. After we return today, we will continue with plans for a huge petition, and for a rally in the next few weeks. It has been said that we might go into politics, as some campaigners have done in the past, but I think the energy spent on that wouldn't help get justice for Robert.

More than likely we'll meet Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams again, to see if we can push things forward. While we were in the US, incidentally, we didn't deliberately avoid him, nor him us. I think, simply, that we both knew it would have been a bit odd to go all the way to the US when we could meet him in Belfast.

Serious as our trip has been, it has not been without its lighter moments, such as when we popped out of the White House for a cigarette and the security people wouldn't let us back in. And at passport control, when we arrived, they were pretty bemused when we all said, when asked the purpose of our visit, that it was to meet the President, but had no documents to prove it. Eventually they just had to call the White House. Earlier in the week, I arranged to be interviewed by a journalist from New Zealand as I came out of the hotel. I was all dressed up for the big party that night. He looked rather shocked when I came looking for him. He said, "But I thought you were a nun!" He'd been told to look out for "sister Catherine".

But these are distractions. We've been totally focused on the job in hand, and have barely done anything except lobby for Robert. Grateful as we are for the media's coverage, in itself it can't change things for Robert. It's the people behind the scenes who make things happen, and at least we've made contact with a few of them.

We are doing our bit, but it's only real action on the ground that will help dissolve the old loyalties and the wall of silence. As we learnt last week, it was firm action in the US's Deep South that saw off the lynch mobs. Words alone weren't enough there, and they won't be enough to get justice for Robert.

Comments