six brave women

Last Wednesday, six women came down to Dublin from Belfast. It was not a shopping expedition. Instead of clothes and presents, they were after hearts and minds.

On Sunday, January 30, 2005, Robert McCartney was drinking in his local pub in the “Short Strand” area of east Belfast. Though a predominantly Protestant (or “Loyalist”) area, McCartney and his family lived and drank in a tiny Catholic (or “Nationalist”) enclave.

They were drinking to commemmorate the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday massacre on the same date in 1972. It was an occasion that was meant to unite all Nationalists.

By the end of the night, McCartney was lying on a hospital bed with stab wounds which were never to heal.

Part of the trouble in Northern Ireland is a profound lack of trust in the Nationalist community towards the police force. This force was formerly known as the RUC (Royal Ulster Constabulary) but as part of the Good Friday Agreement (1998) which was heartily endorsed by the people on the island of Ireland (71% Yes in the North, 94% in the Republic), the force was revamped in such a way that not only was its name changed to the PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland) but they were to embark on an aggressive campaign to recruit more Nationalists to the force.

Despite these efforts, The PSNI is still regarded the same way as the RUC was, and when they arrived on the scene in The Short Strand to investigate the stabbing, nobody was willing to give a statement, even though there were dozens of witnesses, as by all accounts the fight spilled out onto the street.

Robert’s partner and his five sisters came down to Dublin this week to urge the Irish government and indeed the Irish people as a whole to encourage those who know what happened to come forward.

“The police know who killed Robert. The community know who killed Robert, and we know who killed Robert. This can’t be allowed to go on.”, said his sister Paula in an interview with RTE’s Charlie Bird.

“It will give them a license to do it again,” added another sister Gemma. “A civilian (committing) an egotistical attack on a defenseless man.”

Here is Charlie Bird's news report. (you may get errors at first, it should come get through if you keep clicking play)

The very fear which they are trying overcome to find justice for the murder of their loved one only illustrates the sheer bravery they are showing to be so public with their plea. I salute them all.

How bitter is the irony that in a time of such intense conflict, it is those on their own "side" they must fear.

Other sources : rte1 rte2 rte3 guardian bbc


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