Ten years on, still no justice for Robert McCartney

Robert McCartney died after he was stabbed during an altercation outside a Belfast city centre bar
Robert McCartney died after he was stabbed during an altercation outside a Belfast city centre bar

Ten years after the murder of father-of-two Robert McCartney outside a Belfast bar, his sister Catherine said she has reconciled herself to the fact that “the possibility of getting anyone into a prosecution system now is non-existent”.

Mr McCartney, 33, died after he was stabbed during an altercation in Magennis’ Bar on May Street on the night of January 30, 2005.

He was found unconscious with stab wounds in Cromac Street by a police patrol car and he died in hospital the following morning.

Shortly after the murder, blamed on the IRA, his five sisters stepped out from their native Short Strand to challenge the republican group, bringing their campaign for justice to Washington, Strasbourg, Brussels, Berlin and London.

Ms McCartney, 46, said their family campaign for justice “fell asunder” when the “huge political pressure came off” Sinn Fein.

She feels her family’s campaign was used by politicians when it suited them.

Ms McCartney has recently made contact with Doreen Lawrence, whose 18-year-old son Stephen was stabbed to death in an unprovoked racist attack in 1993 in south-east London. It took her 18 years to bring two of his killers to justice.

“I read Doreen Lawrence’s book and despite the fact it is a different context, the circumstances are of an ordinary man going about his business and being attacked and murdered,” said Ms McCartney.

She added: “What happened was an act of murder, then you have the police knowing who it is, the police not acting and all the reasons for that.”

She said at the time of her brother’s murder political parties were “playing politics and using these justice issues as a bargaining tool”.

“At the point of Robert’s murder the (IRA) decommissioning had not happened,” she added. “They (IRA) decommissioned in July 2005.”

Ms McCartney said for the next few years “we were still useful in getting them (Sinn Fein) to sign up to policing and this was essentially good for everyone but not for the family, who were not interested in a political goal, but interested in the straightforward matter of a murder and not political expediency”.

In 2008, three men went on trial in connection with the killing. At the end of the five-week trial they were found not guilty.

Ms McCartney told the News Letter that the trial took “a great toll” on her family.

She added the PSNI were no longer “active” in her brother’s murder inquiry.

“The only people who have evidence now are those who were actually involved in the murder and the likelihood of them coming forward is...,” she said.

A PSNI spokesman said whilst currently no new lines of inquiry are being followed “the investigation into Robert McCartney’s murder remains open”. He appealed for anyone with information to contact them.

A Police Ombudsman spokesman said they are conducting an investigation into the PSNI investigation into Mr McCartney’s murder.