Anthony McIntyre believes there’s a deliberate attempt by the leadership in Sinn Fein to demonise both him and the McCartney sisters by suggesting he has been helping them in the background. He tells Henry McDonald the extent of his ‘involvement’ with the sisters:
‘The morning after Robert McCartney was stabbed, I got a phone call from his aunt, a close personal friend. She was distraught and told me that her nephew had died. I attended the vigil for him the Friday after his death. I wanted to express my sympathy with the family. I then went to Robert’s home and paid respects.’
McIntyre, an ex-IRA prisoner turned writer who served 16 years in the Maze, then wrote an article for the radical republican website that he runs with his wife, Carrie Towmey.
‘The following Tuesday, I attended the funeral. I remained in the company of the aunt who was my friend and her family. On Thursday evening, I received a call from the family. They asked me to I speak to them, as they wanted to ensure that Robert’s murder was not another statistic. They said they had been touched by my article and felt that I was a writer who would approach the matter fairly.’
He suggested that, unless the women highlighted what happened to Robert in the national and international media, his story would be forgotten. He then contacted The Observer , as well as a Dublin-based Sunday newspaper.
‘That Sunday, both papers carried major articles and the sisters’ campaign became major news. I have not been in the family home since, nor seen any of the McCartney women. I have been in touch with them by phone, for the most part putting journalists in contact with them. But now that journalists know them, my contact with the family is infrequent.’
A strong critic of both Sinn Fein and the Belfast Agreement, McIntyre nevertheless believes:
‘The majority of good, decent republicans remain in Sinn Fein. The problem is that the leadership has been in power too long and controls all independent thought. That is why it runs away from the truth. The only alternative to Sinn Fein for republicans will have to come from within Sinn Fein.’