This an interesting feature piece on Bridgeen Hagans, Robert McCartney’s girlfriend that was carried originally in the Observer and then re-printed in the Sunday Independent yesterday.Her recollection of their first meeting with the IRA after Robert’s death seems to have been almost sorrowful occasion:
In all honesty, she says, she’d never been interested in politics. ‘Robert and I kept ourselves to ourselves.’ Robert ticked the box for Sinn Fein at the last election but she didn’t vote. Yet a month after Robert’s death she sat in a room with members of the IRA. ‘I wasn’t frightened,’ she recalls. ‘I just wanted to hear what they had to say. “Why Robert?” I asked. They just said there was no reason. “They killed him for nothing?” I said. The men just nodded their heads.’
But it clearly rankles with her that there seems no means of tackling the people she believes are Robert’s killers:
Yet on the way to school, or standing in the off- licence, she sees the men who she believes murdered her fiancé. Over and again, she says: ‘It’s unbelievable. That this kind of thing goes on. I just can’t believe that they’re allowed to walk about.’ Almost in passing, she mentions hate mail. Soiled pictures of Robert and Brandon. Letters from people criticising her for ‘living in sin’. Notes saying she doesn’t belong in the community. Envelopes addressed to MOB (mother of bastards). ‘I’d never even heard of that phrase before,’ she says, astounded.
Malachi O’Doherty offers three reasons why the story refuses to die:
‘The women have put up a credible, coherent, united front. Second, every time you think the story might die something else has happened. The fact that Sinn Fein want to get off the hook but without giving anything away has helped to prolong it.’ First the IRA’s offer to shoot the suspects provoked a chorus of horror. Then Sinn Fein’s Martin McGuinness suggested that the sisters ‘be very careful’ not to step over ‘the very important line into the world of party politics’, which many took to be a veiled threat. But O’Doherty believes the £26.5m robbery from the Northern Bank in Belfast at the end of 2004, a raid believed to have been carried out by the IRA, also crucially altered the political climate.
The family remains unimpressed with talk of the IRA going out of business. Claire McCartney:
If the IRA disband tomorrow it’s not going to get us justice. The people who did this to Robert are still going to be walking about. It doesn’t affect us one way or the other.’
They are current trying to raise some £300,000 in order to mount a civil law suit to ensure the accused men appear in front of an open court.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty