Arrests Made in Belfast Killing

Charges are brought against two men for killing Robert McCartney and severely injuring his friend. McCartney was killed in January by members of the Irish Republican Army. Michele Norris talks with Jonathan McCambridge, crime correspondent for the Belfast Telegraph.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In Northern Ireland, two men have been charged in a brutal pub death linked to the Irish Republican Army. It's the first break in a case marked by charges of witness intimidation, evidence tampering and international outrage. In January, Robert McCartney was beaten and stabbed outside a pub favored by the IRA. He died the next day. Several patrons observed the beating, but none would cooperate with the police. The case drew international attention after McCartney's five sisters waged a high-profile campaign for justice, taking their case to the European Parliament and the White House, where they met with President Bush on St. Patrick's Day. Jonathan McCambridge has been covering the story for the Belfast Telegraph, and he joins us now.

Jonathan, first remind us what happened outside that pub on January 30th?

Mr. JONATHAN McCAMBRIDGE (Belfast Telegraph): Well, as you say, it was a very brutal incident. Essentially, it originated from a row inside a pub between Robert McCartney and his friends and some other men who were alleged to be members of the IRA. The incident spilled outside. Mr. McCartney was dragged from the pub, beaten, stabbed. His friend, Brendan Devine, was also attacked. Essentially, Mr. McCartney was left to die.

NORRIS: And police had a hard time finding witnesses who were willing to talk about this and obviously had a hard time making any arrest. What happened? How did they finally break the case?

Mr. McCAMBRIDGE: Very much so. Well, the details are sketchy at the minute. The difficulty the police faced in this particular incident was there was a lot of intimidation. They had scores and scores of people who witnessed the event but very few who were prepared to come forward and talk about it or were intimidated so they wouldn't give evidence. Quite what has led them to make these charges that are going to be brought in court tomorrow, we're not entirely sure. This will come out in court. But I think we're safe to assume that it's witness evidence of some sort, which is going to be presented to the court.

NORRIS: Who are the two men who have been charged, and do they have any direct links to the IRA?

Mr. McCAMBRIDGE: We can't reveal the names at the moment, but one of them is a 49-year-old Belfast man who is the uncle of a very senior member of the IRA in Belfast. The other is a 36-year-old Belfast man, who was arrested this week in Birmingham, England, and also a known Republican in the area.

NORRIS: Are police still searching for others who might be involved in this killing?

Mr. McCAMBRIDGE: Absolutely. What we've got here today is merely the tip of the iceberg. But I spoke to Catherine McCartney this evening. And while she welcomed this development, this breakthrough by the police, she said that this is only the start because there were many, many more people, possibly up to 20 or more, involved. And they said two is not enough, it's only a start. And the police have indicated that this is--that they will continue to pursue this investigation most rigorously.

NORRIS: As we've said, Robert McCartney's five sisters pressured both police and politicians to bring their brother's killers to justice. Did that campaign make a difference in this case?

Mr. McCAMBRIDGE: The police would probably say no; they would say they would have pursued the case with equal determination regardless. But there's no doubt that whenever you have this constant media attention, the European Parliament, the trips to the White House, all of the eyes focused on Northern Ireland, people determined to see some sort of satisfactory conclusion, it does put the extra pressure on the police to bring someone before the courts, make someone amenable. And maybe that's what we're seeing.

NORRIS: Jonathan McCambridge, thanks so much for talking to us.

Mr. McCAMBRIDGE: Thank you.

NORRIS: Jonathan McCambridge writes for the Belfast Telegraph.

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