A Dreary Vista

Jim Cusack in today's Sunday Independent "McCartney's killer a part of 'untouchable IRA first family' of sadists and perverts" (registration needed) has put into a very compact nutshell the mindsets of the people in their Belfast ghettos following the election.

As a believer in the centre of politics, I quite welcome the election of a SDLP candidate to South Belfast, and the return of Durkan to his Foyle constituency. I can't help feeling that the spread of PSF is a particular evil, in the worst sense.

It really is a dreary vista.


Kit Reviewer
Can you quote the article please ?
Not too keen on c&p of whole articles, and this is a long one, but this is an exception:

THE IRA man who stabbed Robert McCartney to death may hold the distinction of being the youngest mass killer in either British or Irish history. By the time he was 12, he had managed to kill six people.

A wayward and troublesome youth, he was prone to vandalising property, stealing things and starting fires. On Saturday, January 16, 1984, he set fire to a pile of foam mats in a storeroom in the Maysfield Leisure Centre, beside the Central Station and the Catholic Markets area of Belfast where he lived. As he left the building, the fire took hold, and toxic smoke began belching from the storeroom, filling the leisure centre's maze of corridors.

Six people perished, including 29-year-old Lorraine Gibson, and her two daughters, Angela, 9, and seven-year-old Julie. The other victims were a 16-year-old boy and two men aged 33 and 64.

The young killer was eventually tracked down and questioned by the police but he was a convincing liar and there was no proof that he started the fire. There were no security cameras inside the building to catch him coming from the storeroom, and no witnesses.

Undeterred, the young killer set off on a life of delinquency and soon earned a name as a vicious bully and thief.

A neighbour recalled how the future murderer of Robert McCartney was one of a gang of teenagers who used to wait near the train station for Protestant school children - who were, like all grammar-school pupils, easily identified by their uniforms.

The neighbour watched one day as the gang pounced on a smaller boy from the Royal Belfast Academical Institution - or the Inst, as it is known - who was carrying a violin case. The young Markets thugs kicked and punched the boy the ground, took the violin out of the case, and smashed it over his head.

The young killer then took up joyriding, and is remembered in the Markets for an incident in which he drove a stolen car at speed into the front room of a terraced house. Luckily, the family was watching TV in the back room or they could have been added to the young thug's list of victims.

Had he been anyone other than a working-class Catholic teenager, he would almost certainly have been taken up an alley and shot in both legs or beaten with baseball bats until he was permanently disabled. But, in Belfast, there are circumstances where such juvenile delinquency can be overlooked. It occurs when the young thug involved happens to be a member of a 'republican family'. And this thug just happens to be part of an extended family in the Markets and Short Strand areas that comprises most of the local IRA leadership. This is a family which, if its members were living in Texas, would have a chainsaw-massacre movie made about it.

The killer's principal reputation in the Catholic enclave is not so much for the people he killed in the leisure centre or his joyriding, but for his violence against women. He is a sadist. During a row with a girlfriend, who happened to be doing the ironing at the time, he beat her to the floor and was in the process of kicking her senseless when the unfortunate young woman's sister came into the house and tried to intervene. He grabbed her, tore off her blouse and pressed the red-hot iron against her breast. She still bears the scars.

In another incident, he forced his way into a flat on the Ormeau Road and kicked a heavily pregnant young woman in the stomach so hard that she lost her baby. Everyone in the Markets and Short Strand knew about the incident. No one said a word.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, this man comes from a family notorious for knife-wielding butchery. In an eerie prequel to the murder of Robert McCartney, the uncle of the prime suspect was part of a drunken Provisional IRA gang that beat and stabbed to death Francis Joseph Benson in November 1973.

Benson was punched in an unprovoked attack by the uncle in a bar in the Markets, then others joined him. They dragged the unfortunate Benson, a 28-year-old docker, into an alley off Stewart Street and butchered him, dumping the body in a derelict house. Benson, local people recall, had done nothing to deserve the assault on him. He happened to be in the wrong bar at the wrong time when the local Provos' blood was up.

While local people knew of what happened to Benson and of the other acts of extreme violence perpetrated by the local IRA, few have ever spoken of it before now. They are talking a bit now, though, albeit sotto voce. They are beginning to realise that they have allowed the republican 'family' to grow and prosper in their midst - the head of the local IRA unit reputedly owns five houses - to the point where it is untouchable.

As they begin to talk, a picture is emerging of the vicious, dysfunctional people who comprise the local IRA leadership. One of the family, now dead, was not only the head of the local IRA unit but also one of the IRA's very top men in Belfast in the Eighties.

Despite being married with two children and fond of portraying himself as a macho kind of guy, he was also a closet homosexual or, in Belfast rhyming slang, a 'bullroot' (fruit), as the locals described him.

He was notorious among the young tearaways for the way he liked to 'punish' them for aberrant or 'anti-social' behaviour, as the IRA put it. The young hoods were ordered round to his house, where they were, often as not, forced over his knee, had their trousers taken down and spanked. One youth was summoned to the house to find the Bullroot wearing only a towel as he prepared for the 'punishment'.

This punishment was humiliating and usually painful - although he could be quite forgiving with good-looking boys - but it was almost always less damaging than the kneecappings and beatings dispensed in the alleyways of other Catholic areas.

Like his younger relative (once removed - it is a somewhat complicated family structure involving some consanguineous relationships), the Bullroot was also fond of going to Maysfield Leisure Centre. He went there on almost a daily basis, spending an inordinate amount of time in the weight-training room and the men's sauna.

It was in the sauna that the RUC Special Branch reputedly placed a spy camera that captured the stocky and remarkably ugly IRA boss engaged in distinctly unrepublican behaviour with a rent boy, possibly sent there for the purpose by the Branch.

Confronted with the X-rated evidence of his proclivities and threatened with exposure, he reputedly became one of the Branch's biggest touts in Belfast. It became quite clear as the Eighties wore on that almost every major bomb-run by the IRA in Belfast was being stymied by very, very good intelligence.

Though dozens of young IRA members were to spend large parts of their lives in prison because of him, the Bullroot remains a revered figure on the list of republican dead.

However, he was by no means the only big tout operated by the security forces from the Markets and Short Strand.

Possibly the biggest ever tout operated by the British Army also came from the Markets and, naturally, was part of the extended IRA family, by marriage. He was the IRA's 'Witch-finder General', charged with seeking out informers and handing them over to a gang in south Armagh that had earned itself the charming soubriquet 'the Nutting Squad'.

They enjoyed their work, spending days, even weeks, torturing victims until they 'confessed' to their betrayal of the republican cause. The victims were mostly near death by the time they were taken to lonely roads in south Armagh and shot - some of them possibly welcoming the release death would bring.

ONE of their last victims was Caroline Moorland, a 35-year-old single mother who also happened to be suffering from cancer of the spine. She was accused of giving information that led to the capture of an IRA squad on its way to murder a top detective in east Belfast.

However, it is almost certain that Moorland knew nothing of the plot but was murdered after being forced into giving a confession to hide the identity of the real tout - the same Witch-finder who had accused her of informing.

Moorland was snatched from her daughter, taken to a house on the Monaghan-Armagh border and there interrogated and tortured for more than a week before being shot dead. The murder took place less than a month before the IRA called its ceasefire.

Since the sisters and partner of Robert McCartney decided to speak out, other people from the Markets and Short Strand have begun to think and talk a bit more analytically about the IRA.

They have begun to think and even speak more openly than ever before about the people who went to Magennis's Bar on the evening of January 30, 2005, after returning from Sinn Fein's annual Bloody Sunday commemoration march in Derry, where they had joined the marchers led by Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and the rest of the party leadership.

They have begun to talk about the local IRA boss (a family member, naturally) reputed to have ordered the murder of father-of-two McCartney and the near murder of Brendan Devine.

The boss's family includes not only the Bullroot but another man who was forced to flee the Markets area some years ago after it emerged that he was a paedophile and serial child abuser.

He was long suspected of 'fiddling' with children but his close connection to the family prevented him being accused or attacked. People let it happen in silence. Unfortunately for him, his last victim was the younger sister of a young woman with equally strong connections to another IRA family.

There was a bit of an outcry and he decamped to Dublin where, it is believed, he was taken in and looked after by the IRA gang in north inner Dublin that runs the truck heists out of Dublin Port.

The boss's uncle is believed to have been the man, aged in his mid-40s, who was seen kicking and then jumping on the head of the dying Robert McCartney in Market Street, around the corner from the pub. He reputedly only stopped when someone shouted: "Stop, he's dead!"

This man, a person capable of kicking the prone body of a man who had already been slashed with a carving knife and stabbed in the heart, is, not surprisingly, yet another violent sexual deviant.

He has a reputation for violence against men and women, and though married and living with his wife in the Short Strand, is a familiar figure on Belfast's cottaging circuit.

He is also a fairly prominent Sinn Fein electoral worker. So is his nephew and so is the knife man who repeatedly stabbed and slashed McCartney and his drinking companion Devine. So is the man who beat McCartney and Devine with a sewer rod, gathered, with the knife, from the storeroom in Magennis's Bar in Belfast city centre.

Adams and other Sinn Fein figures have stated that the murder of McCartney was not an IRA operation. To the extent that this has any limited meaning, it is correct. There was no sanction of the murder by the IRA leadership.

But it was ordered by the local IRA boss who made a stabbing motion with his hand as he walked away from Devine after stabbing him in the throat with a broken bottle. He also ordered that Devine's T-shirt be torn off to prevent the discovery of any DNA evidence if the garment fell into the hands of the police.

He also ordered his men to follow and attack Robert McCartney, who had been no part of the dispute which led to this 'glassing' of Brendan Devine, as he helped his friend from the bar.

He was present when the weapons were taken by his men. He was also present - before being whisked away in a car - when the men then ordered the forensic cleaning of the bar to remove any evidence that might connect them to the murder and maiming.

One of his men shouted: "This is IRA business," as the rest of the punters in the bar were ordered to "say nothing" and stay inside until they were allowed out.

It is also believed that one of the IRA gang brought an IRA gun to Market Street and was holding it to Robert McCartney's head when he was stabbed.

And it was the same members of the IRA who later went to speak to eyewitnesses and tell them, in one man's words, that it would be "better for them" if they saw nothing.

The murder may not have been premeditated or officially sanctioned, but the cover-up which immediately swung into operation was 'IRA business' and took a lot of organising. It was the IRA who took Robert McCartney's jacket and put it in a shopping bag, which was then taken away in a car to an IRA pub in west Belfast, where it was handed over to other IRA people who burned the evidence.

It may not, in Adams's view, have been an IRA operation - he has even described it as a "crime" - but the current IRA officer commanding in Belfast has made a point of showing solidarity with the man who ordered the stabbing of Robert McCartney and Brendan Devine. He has appeared publicly in his company on several occasions, laughing and joking.

And, despite Adams's weasel words, it is Sinn Fein that is behind the campaign of vilification directed against the McCartney sisters and Robert's fiancee, Bridgeen Hagans. Even before the women's meeting with US President George Bush, they were orchestrating a whispering campaign: that the McCartney girls were being financed and manipulated by the SDLP and anti-Sinn Fein people.

The media handlers were sidling up to journalists at the Sinn Fein Ard Fheis before the women arrived and telling them that Robert was "no angel", nor was Brendan Devine. They were hinting that McCartney and Devine started the fight and though the lads might have overreacted a bit, these things happen.

The smear campaign got worse when the family returned from Washington. There were hints and allegations about the funding for their trip, and stories in pro-Sinn Fein newspapers. The sisters are quite open about the assistance they received and have never attempted to conceal anything.

Then Bridgeen and the sisters were physically assaulted while handing out slips of paper announcing a vigil for Robert. A local man who witnessed the incident said the sisters were clearly accosted with the intention of provoking them into a fight.

Despite being subjected to disgusting sexual taunts, the sisters resisted the temptation to hit out - luckily, for the confrontation was being filmed by a cameraman hidden in the upstairs bedroom of a nearby house and if the sisters had struck out, there is little doubt that the images would have quietly been released to the media by Sinn Fein.

Later that same night, a female member of the IRA family called to Paula McCartney's house and told her that she and her husband and five children would have to get out of the area. Bridgeen, too, was told to leave.

PERHAPS not remarkably, the murder of Robert McCartney, and the life-risking campaign by his fiancee and sisters to secure justice, has had no impact on support for Sinn Fein.

The only noticeable impact has been in south Belfast, where the party has split along the lines of those who, out of embarrassment, like Gerry Adams, would like to see the IRA killers put up their hands and go to prison, and those who think that they should stand by their men - all of which maybe says something about the Catholic community of Northern Ireland.

People know that IRA people, who are also members of Sinn Fein, killed Robert McCartney - and slightly more than 1,800 people over the past 30 years, for that matter - and know the IRA is up to its neck in organised crime.

But it doesn't seem to matter. Sinn Fein emerges from the Westminster elections largely unscathed by the butchery at Magennis's Bar. Whether or not anyone is ever charged, Robert McCartney's murder will be relegated to history, just as Detective Garda Jerry McCabe's was about to be last Christmas.

The "process", as Gerry Adams puts it, must move on. He will be able to command that this takes place on the grounds that Sinn Fein's mandate cannot be ignored.

Some time in the coming weeks or months, the IRA will issue some slippery statement saying that after consultation with its members . . . blah, blah . . . it has decided to discontinue military . . . blah, blah . . . and pursue purely democratic . . . blah, blah, blah.

At that point, with most of the media slavishly working themselves into a 'historic' and 'momentous' frenzy, the British and Irish governments will feel compelled to restart the talks.

But there is a problem: the Protestants. They voted for the Rev Ian Paisley in unprecedented numbers for one reason only - because he says he will have no truck with Sinn Fein.

Middle-class Protestants say that the murder of Robert McCartney and the republican vilification of the family has turned their stomachs. They say that if this is the way Sinn Fein and the IRA treat their own people, what would they do to Protestants?

They are breaking out in a cold sweat at the thought of IRA men being on a Northern Ireland policing board and Martin McGuinness as minister for justice at Stormont.

But still, both governments will be forced to 'respect' Sinn Fein's mandate and to try to get the talks going again, and Paisley and his deputies may even go along for part of the ride if the IRA says it is going out of business.

But Paisley knows that if his party agrees to go into government with Adams and McGuinness, the fate that befell David Trimble will inevitably befall them too. Someone will shout "Lundy" (the governor of Derry who opened the gates in the city walls to the besieging Jacobite army in August 1689, before the Protestant apprentice boys closed them again).

Twenty-five years of violence might have traumatised Northern Ireland but even in the worst of the Troubles, people were prepared to give the political moderates a decent vote. Now, 10 years of the 'Peace Process' has turned the North into the most diametrically divided political entity in western Europe.

To this extent, the murder of Robert McCartney has meant something. It allowed the rest of the world to see that even in the face of such an horrific act, the Catholic electorate in the North is prepared to vote for the party whose members did it and who covered it up.

It means that nothing is really too off-putting to stop Catholics voting for Sinn Fein, and that is because a vote for Gerry and Martin and the Lads is the best way of putting it up to the Prods. It is, as Winston Churchill's father, Randolph, solemnly intoned almost a century ago, a dreary vista.

Jim Cusack
Incidentally, for an excellent roundup of news in the Province and Island-wide, 'Newshound', run by John Fay, is at http://www.nuzhound.com/.

Of the writers whose opinions I frequently home into on that resource, Newton Emerson (of Portadown News fame), and Ruth Dudley Edwards are regulars.


War Hero
Jesus Christ! Pity that during his formative years he didn't joyride his way into Lee Clegg's VCP.

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