- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 4, 2005

BELFAST — Two Belfast men were charged yesterday in the IRA-linked slaying of a Catholic man and the injury of his friend outside a pub earlier this year, the first breakthrough in a case that has overshadowed Northern Ireland’s peace process for months.

A 49-year-old man will face a charge of murdering Robert McCartney, while a 36-year-old man will be charged with the attempted murder of Brendan Devine, who was seriously wounded in the Jan. 30 attack, police said. The arraignment was set for today in Belfast Crown Court.

Mr. McCartney’s sisters — who have taken their campaign to the White House and the European Parliament — said they were stunned by the news but emphasized that their mission for justice still had a long way to go.

“We hope it will lead to further arrests, because there were more than two people involved. We still have a long way to go in terms of a trial and convictions,” Catherine McCartney said. “We are happy this has happened, but we know it is by no means over.”

President Bush publicly praised the McCartney family for its bravery and greeted the five sisters and the fiancee of Robert McCartney at the White House on St. Patrick’s Day.

Mr. Bush also excluded Sinn Fein, a political party linked to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), from the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the White House — an event Sinn Fein leaders had attended every year since 1995.

The IRA initially denied involvement, then admitted its members committed the attack after facing public pressure from Mr. McCartney’s five sisters and his fiancee.

Since then members of the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party have faced criticism internationally for covering up evidence and refusing to cooperate with the police investigation.

The two men who were arrested Wednesday are the first to face charges in the case. They were among a dozen suspects detained previously and released without charge after refusing to answer questions.

Witnesses say an IRA unit initially attacked Mr. Devine inside the pub, then targeted Mr. McCartney when he pulled his friend, bleeding from a neck wound, outside.

The gang stabbed Mr. McCartney in the neck and stomach and clubbed him in the head with iron bars, then went back inside the pub to mop up blood and other forensic evidence.

They also took a tape from a surveillance camera and warned witnesses not to talk to police.

The McCartneys’ campaign for justice is a rarity in Northern Ireland — a case of working-class Catholics publicly confronting the IRA in its own power base.

“Up to 15 people were involved in Robert’s murder. Some played a significant role, others minor. We will not rest until all those involved in what happened to Robert that night come forward,” Paula McCartney said.

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