Tags: IRA's | Offer | Kill | Four | Draws | U.S. | Outrage

IRA's Offer to Kill Four Draws U.S. Outrage

Wednesday, 09 March 2005 12:00 AM

The Irish Republican Army, which is supposed to be observing a 1997 cease-fire in support of Northern Ireland's peace process, has faced weeks of embarrassment over its members' role in killing a Catholic civilian, intimidating witnesses and destroying evidence. The case highlights the IRA's decades-old practice of seeking to impose its authority on the most hard-line Catholic parts of Northern Ireland.

The victim's family, which lives in an IRA power base in east Belfast, has waged a rare public campaign demanding that the IRA admit its involvement in killing Robert McCartney, 33, and encouraging witnesses to give evidence to police.

The McCartneys' stand has forced the IRA to make a string of admissions, culminating in Tuesday night's declaration it had offered to kill four people the IRA blames for the Jan. 30 killing outside a Belfast pub.

"The IRA representatives detailed the outcome of the internal disciplinary proceedings thus far and stated in clear terms that the IRA was prepared to shoot the people directly involved in the killing of Robert McCartney," according to a statement from the group.

The British and Irish prime ministers, Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern, both denounced the IRA's offer as bizarre.

"It's an extraordinary statement and a shock to the system," Ahern said in Dublin.

Reiss specifically chided Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams for his remarks during his speech Saturday to the party's annual conference. Adams, reflecting traditional IRA-Sinn Fein policy, claimed the movement wouldn't tolerate criminals in its ranks. He immediately qualified that position, arguing that the IRA wasn't committing crimes when it broke laws "in pursuit of legitimate political objectives."

Analysts say that view justifies virtually all of the IRA's activities, including its robberies, fuel smuggling and policy of maiming petty criminals within the IRA's Catholic power bases.

Reiss said he found that comment "particularly worrisome. ... You can't sign up for the rule of law a la carte."

Ahern said the IRA had a history of using death threats as a way of maintaining order. "But when you actually see it in written form ... it's horrific," he said.

"The IRA statement yesterday frankly defies any description," Blair told the House of Commons in London.

Blair said the IRA had revealed why both governments and every other political party in both parts of Ireland were demanding the IRA fully disarm and disband.

"We have made considerable progress in Northern Ireland," he said, referring to the peace process and the Good Friday peace pact of 1998. "But we now have an impasse because of the refusal of the IRA to give up violent activity of whatever sort."

Detectives trying to bring charges against McCartney's killers said they have arrested a man on suspicion of involvement. The man appeared voluntarily at a police station, accompanied by a lawyer.

Nobody has been charged yet. Police say 10 people previously arrested on suspicion of involvement have refused to make any statements while in custody and been released without charge.

Northern Ireland's police commander, Chief Constable Hugh Orde, said he didn't need the IRA to tell his officers who killed McCartney. He did need members of the public to feel safe enough to testify - because the IRA traditionally kills anybody who informs on IRA activities to police.

"We know the names of the suspects. Many people claim to be supplying those, but police work has identified those responsible," Orde said. "What the police need are witnesses willing to come forward ... and give evidence in court. That's the way the law works."

McCartney's relatives also said the IRA still doesn't get their point.

"Revenge is not what the family are looking for. We want justice," said Gerard Quinn, a cousin of the slain man.

An aunt, Margaret Quinn, said the IRA didn't respect the right to secure criminal convictions in court. "Killing somebody is irreversible," she said. "At the moment these people are suspected. To kill suspects - how would anyone ever know if those suspects were the people who were involved?"

Other politicians accused IRA-Sinn Fein leaders of continuing to cover up the movement's full role in the killing. The IRA statement Tuesday said just four people, including two IRA members, were involved in the killing; previously the IRA has expelled three members allegedly involved, while Sinn Fein has suspended seven members.

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The Irish Republican Army, which is supposed to be observing a 1997 cease-fire in support of Northern Ireland's peace process, has faced weeks of embarrassment over its members' role in killing a Catholic civilian, intimidating witnesses and destroying evidence. The case...
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Wednesday, 09 March 2005 12:00 AM
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