- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

President Bush yesterday told the family of slain Irishman Robert McCartney that he will do whatever he can to help bring the killers to justice at a St. Patrick’s Day event that for the first time in a decade did not include the leader of Sinn Fein.

Mr. McCartney’s five sisters and fiancee urged Mr. Bush to put pressure on Sinn Fein, the political arm of the militant Irish Republican Army, during a brief meeting at the White House.

“We pressed on the president the importance of getting justice for Robert, and he said he’s 100 percent behind our campaign,” said Catherine McCartney, standing outside the White House gate with her sisters and Bridgeen Hagans, who have rekindled the peace process in Ireland begun in 1998 with the Good Friday agreement.

“We believe very much that Ireland as a whole and the peace process require justice for people back in Ireland and that he was 100 percent behind us,” she said.

In a snub to Sinn Fein, Mr. Bush excluded leader Gerry Adams, who has attended the annual White House St. Patrick’s Day celebration for the past 10 years. The White House yesterday issued a stern message to the IRA and Mr. Adams.

“There is no place for the violence and the thuggery and the criminality,” Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said. “The sisters coming here sends the message that we are united with those who are working in the society to end the violence and bring about peace.”

Mr. McCartney, a 33-year-old forklift driver, was beaten and fatally stabbed outside a Belfast pub in January. In the days afterward, 72 witnesses refused to talk amid reports that the IRA had issued death threats for anyone who spoke up.

Police investigating the killing were attacked with stones.

The slaying followed a December bank robbery that netted $50 million, the largest in Ireland’s history and attributed to the IRA. After more than a thousand people attended a vigil in memory of Mr. McCartney, a Roman Catholic, five days after his death, his sisters began speaking out.

His family blames the IRA for his death and is calling for charges to be brought against about a dozen people who they said are responsible. The sisters are trying to raise awareness of the slaying and put pressure on Sinn Fein and the IRA to encourage witnesses to come forward.

Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who met with Mr. Bush yesterday in the White House, supported the women’s efforts.

“We want to see an end totally to all paramilitary activity and any kind of violence,” he said. “I think what the McCartney sisters have done on the world stage has made it clear why that’s so necessary to bring to fruition.”

Mr. Ahern said renewed power-sharing in Northern Ireland between Protestant leaders and Sinn Fein, the major Catholic-backed party, required the IRA to deliver on its promises made in the Good Friday agreement.

For his part, Mr. Bush said his administration stands ready to help the peace process in any way possible.

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