- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 9, 2005

BELFAST — In its bluntest criticism yet of the Irish Republican Army, the Bush administration told the IRA that it should disband after the outlawed group offered to shoot four men — including two recently expelled members — responsible for killing a Catholic civilian.

Yesterday’s call from the U.S. envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, came a week ahead of St. Patrick’s Day, when, for the first time in a decade, Gerry Adams and other leaders of the IRA-affiliated party Sinn Fein won’t be guests of the White House.

This year, the White House invitations are going to the five sisters of the IRA’s most recent victim, Robert McCartney, a 33-year-old forklift operator and nightclub bouncer.

“It’s time for the IRA to go out of business. And it’s time for Sinn Fein to be able to say that explicitly, without ambiguity, without ambivalence, that criminality will not be tolerated,” Mr. Reiss told the British Broadcasting Corp.

He particularly questioned the argument by Mr. Adams and Sinn Fein that most IRA activities — including robbing banks and shooting petty criminals in the limbs — shouldn’t be considered crimes.

Mr. McCartney was killed Jan. 30 after an IRA-led gang slashed one of his friends inside a Belfast pub, then attacked both men outside, clubbing Mr. McCartney with iron bars and knifing him in the neck and stomach.

The IRA members are thought to have mopped up forensic evidence, stolen tapes from a surveillance camera and warned more than 70 potential witnesses in the pub not to say anything to police — or face the IRA’s traditional death sentence for informers.

Police brought in 10 persons, but released them all when they refused to talk.

The IRA, which killed about 1,800 people from 1970 until its 1997 cease-fire, relied on support from its Catholic base as it mounted attacks on businesses, British troops and the predominantly Protestant police force. The group ensured its control of Catholic areas by attacking petty criminals and killing people accused of helping the police.

Such IRA bullying has persisted with relative impunity for 35 years because virtually no Catholics have been willing to testify against IRA figures. The McCartney killing could mark a turning point. Unlike most families of IRA victims, the McCartney sisters have pursued a public campaign demanding justice from leaders of Sinn Fein and the IRA.

The IRA and Sinn Fein initially denied responsibility. Then the IRA expelled three members and Sinn Fein suspended seven. Both have instructed the killers and witnesses to come forward.

The latest IRA statement Tuesday night said IRA representatives twice met with the McCartneys and offered to shoot the men who attacked their brother, an offer the family declined, saying they wanted justice, not petty revenge.

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