Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Seeking Justice in Northern Ireland

According to this story in Monday's New York Times, the Middle East is not the only place where people are starting to say no to terrorists and thugs:

Taking heart from the campaign for justice for Robert McCartney, a Belfast man killed in January in a brutal bar fight with members of the Irish Republican Army, families of people killed by Catholic and Protestant paramilitary groups have increasingly been defying sectarian fighters by coming forward with their stories.

The article reminds us that the vicious murder of Robert McCartney was merely the tip of the iceberg in terms of the violence perpetrated by the IRA and its "loyalist" counterparts:

Families coming forward include those of Mark Robinson, a 22-year-old Catholic who was stabbed 11 times, beaten and left for dead by a known I.R.A. fighter in Derry in 2001; of Raymond McCord, a 22-year-old Protestant whose body was found in a quarry outside Belfast nearly eight years ago, after he had been abducted and beaten to death by a Protestant gang called the Ulster Volunteer Force; and of Gareth O'Connor, a 24-year-old Catholic who never came back from a drive in the I.R.A. heartland in 2003, days after the group had threatened him.

The sectarian conflict in Northern Ireland has claimed more than 200 lives in the past 10 years, according to British-Irish Rights Watch. In those cases, only 30 people have been successfully prosecuted for murder or manslaughter.

Sadly, the McCartney sisters are no closer to obtaining justice for their brother:

We haven't moved any closer; there's been no movement as yet," Paula McCartney said at her home recently, before she and other family members were to travel to Washington to meet with Mr. Bush, Mr. Kennedy and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York.

However, the example set by the sisters and their heroic struggle has begun to break the climate of fear generated by the paramilitaries:

Mark O'Connor, the father of Gareth O'Connor, said he expected more families to speak out against the paramilitary groups, even around his home in Armagh, the county south of Belfast where the I.R.A. exercises the most ruthless control. Even a few years ago, local I.R.A. rule meant that "nobody speaks out, because if they speak out, they go down a hole," he said. When he began criticizing the I.R.A. for his son's disappearance, he endured death threats, smashed windows and a burned garden at his home, he said.

He added, though, that ordinary people had started to defy the threats. "People will stand up to them now," he said. "Before, if they came to your door and said, 'We need your car at 6 o'clock,' you'd have your car running outside with the keys in it."

Even if the McCartneys have yet to obtain witness testimony or criminal convictions, they have altered the atmosphere in republican areas. Paula McCartney said she was thrilled to find her neighbors in Belfast's Short Strand area beginning to turn away from local I.R.A. fighters. "People now are actively shunning these characters," she said.

As I wrote in my first post on the McCartney murder, the IRA are now nothing more than a gigantic criminal enterprise. Their Protestant "loyalist" rivals are no better. It is time for these thugs to go.


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