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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 March, 2005, 23:38 GMT
Family encouraged by Bush talks
Paula McCartney shakes hands with President George Bush
Paula McCartney shakes hands with President George Bush
The family of murdered Belfast man Robert McCartney have said they are encouraged after meeting US President George W Bush at the White House.

Mr McCartney's sisters and partner gave Mr Bush a dossier which details their claims that IRA members murdered the father-of-two on 30 January.

They said they got the impression Mr Bush "had a very good understanding of what our campaign is about".

Catherine McCartney said the president was 100% behind them.

Mr McCartney, 33, was stabbed to death following a row in a Belfast bar. His family has blamed the IRA for the murder and subsequent interference with evidence and witnesses.

The meeting came a day after their campaign for justice received backing from some of America's most influential politicians.

The McCartney sisters pictured upon arrival in the US

Ann McCabe, the widow of Garda Jerry McCabe who was shot dead by the IRA in the Irish Republic in 1996, also attended the White House meeting.

She said she supported the McCartney family's quest for justice.

On Thursday evening, Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams said the case had become steeped in politics.

Mr Adams said the only people who could not be accused of political motivation were the McCartney family themselves.

President Bush invited the McCartney family to the White House as part of a gesture to all those working towards peace in Northern Ireland.

Earlier, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern presented President Bush with a bowl of shamrock at the White House St Patrick's Day reception.

He said the Irish government was as fully committed as in 1998 to making the Good Friday Agreement work and knew they could count on President Bush's continued support.

He said inclusive government in Northern Ireland was only possible when there was "definitive closure to paramilitary capability and activity including all forms of criminality".

Unlike previous years, Northern Ireland's politicians were not invited to the annual celebrations.

Family's 'courage'

On Wednesday, the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland, Mitchell Reiss, met the McCartney family and said the US administration was doing all in its power to help them.

The family also held talks with US Senator Ted Kennedy, who has refused to meet Gerry Adams during the Sinn Fein leader's St Patrick's week trip to the US.

A spokeswoman for Senator Kennedy said he had cancelled a meeting because of the IRA's "ongoing criminal activity".

Robert McCartney, 33, was killed near Belfast city centre
Robert McCartney, 33, was killed near Belfast city centre

Senator Kennedy said the family's presence in Washington "sends a very powerful signal that it's time for the IRA to fully decommission, end all criminal activity and cease to exist as a paramilitary organisation".

The McCartney family's visit to America comes after Sinn Fein criticised the handling of the murder inquiry by police in Northern Ireland.

Martin McGuinness accused the police of "unprecedented and incredible delays" in questioning key suspects and witnesses just to damage his party.

Three men were expelled by the IRA after the killing, including the two main suspects in the case.

PSNI Chief Constable Hugh Orde, who has travelled to Washington, said the police would decide when the time was right to make arrests.

"I think the public understand the difference between intelligence and evidence - they are ahead of us on this," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

"They know very well that we need a case to put to people."

How Gerry Adams was sidelined in Washington

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