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The mainstream Dublin and London media, attending Sinn Fein's
Ard Fheis in Dublin this weekend, had to abandon their prepared
script at an early stage.
The McCartney family, lionised in the media as heroes in the
battle to defeat Sinn Fein and the IRA, were given unequivocal
support at the conference in their support for justice.
Adams took a difficult stance against the 'hard men' of the
Short Strand in unionist east Belfast, where immediate force has
long reigned. The staunchly nationalist area has been
brutalised by its long and often isolated defence against
unionist paramilitary and British state violence, and its
hard-fought pecking order has been challenged by recent events.
Earlier, Mr Adams announced the suspension of seven Sinn Fein
members who the McCartney family accused of being among those
who were present.
He controversially urged those named to make statements to the
Police Ombudmsan Nuala O'Loan, tantamount to making statements
to the PSNI police itself. Republicans across the North, and
particularly in the Short Strand, oppose the murderous and still
unreformed British police force.
And, in a television interview later, he also warned that any
members of Sinn Fein who were material witnesses to the killing
and who failed to provide statements on the matter would be
expelled from the party.
In his keynote address, Mr Adams demanded those involved in the
stabbing admit their guilt in a court of law.
Blaming the attack on alcohol-fuelled machoism, he called for a
halt to any intimidation preventing a full account of the
The West Belfast MP said: "People who have information come
forward, come and admit it. Be men, come forward and redeem
The McCartney family set expressionless during Mr Adams'
address, commenting later that they remained to see the result
of events on the ground on the Short Strand.
But it was a challenging scene, which can only have baffled the
public watching live on Irish television, and deep dismay for
the anti-republican media.
More than one of Ireland's Sunday newspapers were forced to
revise their weekly front page attack on Sinn Fein as a result
of the development.
The media's pain was self-induced. McCartney's sisters only
decided to travel from Belfast to Dublin yesterday afternoon
after a headline in the Belfast Telegraph accused them of
"snubbing" an invite to the Sinn Fein ard fheis. The newspaper
said they were preparing to travel to America for St Patrick's
"We had been invited to the ard fheis but we told them we were
too knackered [exhausted]," said Gemma, one of the McCartney
sisters. "Then this 'snubbed' headline came along. We felt we
were getting all tied up in politics and it was turning into a
real mess," said McCartney.
The family welcomed the suspension of Sinn Fein members as a
"belated step forward".
Another sister of Belfast man Robert McCartney earlier said she
would vote for Sinn Fein again if the row over her brother's
murder was resolved.
Catherine McCartney said she had voted Sinn Fein in the past
because she believed "they were the ones who had the best
interests of nationalists at heart".
She said, "I voted for Sinn Fein because they were the ones who
represented us best and, if anyone could get a united Ireland,
"If it was all resolved properly, then I would vote for them