Getting the story straight

The intimidation of the family and fiancée of Robert McCartney has been condemned by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as the “usual sinister activity by sinister people”, a theme picked up by the Belfast Telegraph editorial, which also condemns the attack by loyalists on the home of Jack McKee. In contrast, The Guardian carries a quote from Sinn Féin’s Joe O’Donnell “I have to keep an open mind”, while the SDLP’s Alasdair McDonnell, said: “There are no two sides to this story…This was a naked attempt to silence them[the McCartneys] and drive them out”. There is one other point to note from recent developments, and it relates to the standing down of two SF candidates from the election. UpdatedAccording to the initial statement from a Sinn Féin spokesman, blogged here, and repeated in today’s Daily Ireland report, “A decision was taken not to run more than one candidate in Laganbank”, the Daily Ireland report also claims that “party strategists insisted the withdrawals were a ‘change of plan’“.

But, in other reports, notably this BBC report, and the Irish Times, a different Sinn Féin statement is quoted –

Sinn Féin said Ms Hargey was not standing “because she is among a number of party members suspended pending the completion of internal party procedures.[emphasis added]

“These procedures were put in place to establish whether the party president’s (Gerry Adams’s) instructions for members present in Magennis’s Bar on the night Robert McCartney was killed were followed. Because they are suspended – and this is without prejudice – Deirdre cannot be nominated,” Sinn Féin said in a statement.

Sinn Féin president Mr Adams last month announced that seven Sinn Féin members were suspended from the party pending inquiries into the presence of its members in or around Magennis’s the night Mr McCartney was fatally stabbed.

No reason appears to be given for standing down the other Sinn Féin candidate, Cora Groogan[not Croogan as the Daily Ireland reports], in either statement.. and that’s where it starts to get, even more, complicated.

Sinn Féin have yet to amend the original figure of 7 party members suspended from the party.

That came from Gerry Adams on March 2, when he made the public statement that 7 Sinn Féin members had been suspended without prejudice and told “to provide full and frank statements”.

However, we know that almost 2 weeks after that announcement, on March 12, neither of the 2 Sinn Féin candidates, now stood down from elections, had contacted the Police Ombudsman to provide a statement, never mind coming forward to be interviewed – by either the police or the Ombudsman’s investigators – although, subsequently, statements were passed to the Ombudsman’s Office via their solicitors, in keeping with Sinn Féin’s official position on co-operating with the investigation.

However, that’s long after Gerry Adams’ public statements calling for everyone to give “full and frank statements”.

Not only that, but on March 14, Martin McGuinness told the BBC – “I only learned of Cora Groogan’s presence when I was at the by-election count in Meath (at the weekend) and obviously it came as a big surprise to me“[emphasis added]

And if Martin didn’t know, then it’s unrealistic to suggest that she was one of the seven party members already suspended.

So, time for an update then.. just how many Sinn Féin party members are currently suspended following the murder of Robert McCartney?.. when were they suspended?.. why, exactly, have those two Sinn Féin candidates been stood down?.. and when will those “internal party procedures” finally be completed?

According to this Belfast Telegraph report, now online, Sinn Féin have confirmed that neither Dierdre Hargey nor Cora Groogan were among the initial 7 seven party members suspended on March 2. The party is also reported as saying that six Sinn Fein members remain suspended.

The report states –

A Sinn Fein spokesman has said that “one or two” people had left the party after being suspended pending the investigation into the attack, although information released by Sinn Fein indicates at least three have resigned.”

Assuming neither Hargey or Groogan have resigned, and are suspended, and only 6 are currently suspended in total, that does mean that 3 from the original 7 have resigned from the party.