By Suzanne BreenBelfast Telegraph
Friday, 2 November 2012Robert McCartney and sonA senior Sinn Fein member and former Provisional IRA leader has been arrested in connection with the murder of Robert McCartney.
The 53-year-old west Belfast man, who is a well-known figure in mainstream republican circles, was taken to Antrim serious crime suite for questioning by detectives.
The arrest will be a major embarrassment for Sinn Fein. The prominent republican has held several senior positions in the Provisional movement, including in the Maze prison where he was serving a life sentence.
When he was granted early release under the Good Friday Agreement, he was greeted at the prison gates by Sinn Fein politician Gerry Kelly, who described him as “a close friend” and praised his leadership role. The republican was convicted in early 1990s of possessing explosives and conspiracy to murder.
Sources said the man’s arrest follows substantial new detailed information given to the PSNI recently.
No-one has been convicted for the murder of Mr McCartney, a father-of-two from the Short Strand, who was beaten and stabbed to death outside Magennis’s bar in Belfast city centre in January 2005.
Three men were charged in connection with the killing: Terry Davison with murder, and Jim McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick with causing an affray. But they were all acquitted in 2008. Robert McCartney’s sister Paula last night said: “Our family welcomes the latest arrest but is treating it with caution. However, we hope that, after all these years, we secure justice for Robert who was so brutally murdered by the IRA.”
Robert McCartney (33) was killed after trying to help his friend, Brendan Devine, who had become involved in a row in Magennis’s. It was alleged that the IRA’s Belfast commander ordered the murder after the argument.
As well as a fatal stab wound to the stomach, Mr McCartney suffered a broken nose and arm and leg injuries.
The McCartneys claim that the IRA forensically cleaned the pub to hide all evidence.
Mr McCartney’s five sisters and his partner, Bridgeen Hagans, waged a campaign to bring his killers to justice.