Robert McCartney who was murdered by an IRA gang in January 2005

MURDERSQUAD detectives arrested a man this morning over the IRA murder of Robert McCartney.

The 53-year-old suspect has been taken to the PSNI’s Antrim Serious Crime Custody Suite in Antrim for questioning.

The murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast city centre bar  provoked international outrage.

Mr McCartney, aged 33, was stabbed and beaten to death by a mob of at least 12 men, the majority of them IRA members, outside the city centre bar in January 2005.

Brendan Devine, a friend of McCartney, was slashed across his throat and from chest to navel and miraculously survived.

The IRA attackers were led by Jock Davison, the ‘Officer Commanding’ the IRA’s Northern Command and a one time high ranking Special Branch informant.

His uncle, Freddie Scappaticci was the British Army’s most high ranking agent inside the Provisional’s who was unmasked as ‘Stakeknif3e.’

Davidson’s 55-year-old uncle, Terry ‘Tight Trunks’ Davison, was later acquitted at a trial in June 2008 of murdering Mr McCartney. He was also acquitted of affray.

It is alleged that Mr McCartney was murdered after he refused to apologise for making a rude gesture in the bar to Terry ‘Tight Trunk’ Davison’s wife.

Two of ‘Tight Trunk’ Davison’s co-accused, Jim ‘Dim’ McCormick, 43, and 51-year-old Joseph Fitzpatrick, were also found not guilty of affray. Fitzpatrick was acquitted on a further charge of assault.

What incensed Robert McCartney’s family was the fact that known Sinn Fein members, who had put their names forward as local election candidates, appeared to have seen nothing of the savage attack.

They included Cora Groogan and Deirdre Hargey, then aged 23 and another rising female in the party.

Former Provo chief ‘Jock’ Davison

Mr McCartney’s family accused Sinn Fein of covering up the fact that city council candidate Hargey and Assembly hopeful Groogan were in the bar the night of bloody attack.

Like Ms Hargey, Ms Groogan said also did not witness anything in the bar and later made a full statement to her solicitor.

It prompted an appeal by Catherine McCartney for any other party members who were in the bar to disclose what they saw.

“Some of these people don’t have a problem with the police, they just pretend they do,” she added.

Another McCartney sister, Paula, said at the time that in her opinion the situation “stinks of a cover-up” as it took Ms Groogan six weeks to come forward and make a statement.

She said Ms Groogan had a duty to present any evidence she may have before a court.

“The fact that it has been six weeks and she is only putting that statement in now, with the full knowledge that a solicitor is an inadequate way of gathering knowledge,” she said.

“She may feel that what she saw was unimportant – I think that is for the police to decide.

“I believe it was her public duty – she should have gone straight to the police with this.”

Ms McCartney added that the fact Miss Groogan had waited so long to come forward had led the family to wonder about how many Sinn Fein or IRA members were in the bar on the night of the murder.

Ms Groogan later confirmed that she had been among 70 people in Magennis’s bar on the night in question.

Sinn Féin and the IRA have always denied the McCartney sisters’ claims that they were preventing witnesses from coming forward.

However, at one stage the IRA offered to “shoot” a number of people in connection with McCartney’s death.

Following the acquittal of ‘Tight Trunks’ Davison, ‘Dim’ McCormick and Joe Fitzpatrick, Sinn Fein said: “The murder of Robert McCartney was a brutal act which was widely and deservedly condemned. Sinn Fein has consistently supported the McCartney family in their campaign for justice. We have urged people with any information to bring it forward to the PSNI and will continue to do so.

“It is clear from both the trial evidence and statements from the police that a large number of witnesses have come forward. This is a criminal matter which needs to be dealt with by the police and the courts.”

Almost eight years after Robert McCartney’s brutal and cold blooded murder in a Belfast city centre street, no one has yet been convicted of his killing or even with withholding information about the attack.

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