Two men charged with assaulting friend of IRA victim

Two Belfast men were arraigned Thursday on charges of assaulting a friend of Robert McCartney, a Catholic civilian whose killing by Irish Republican Army members attracted worldwide attention.

McCartney, 33, was stabbed and clubbed to death outside a Belfast pub Jan. 30. The victim's five sisters and fiancйe highlighted the IRA's intimidation of witnesses and cleanup of forensic evidence. The IRA initially denied involvement, then admitted three members were involved and offered to execute two of them.

The McCartneys have received several international awards and been a guest of U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House in recognition of their campaign to end IRA intimidation in Catholic parts of Belfast.

But the McCartneys, most of whom live in a hard-line Catholic enclave of east Belfast called Short Strand, say IRA members and supporters continue to threaten the family and their friends.

On Sept. 12, one of Robert McCartney's best friends Jeff Commander was surrounded by several local men, among them well-known IRA figures, and repeatedly clubbed with metal pipes. His head was split open, but he survived.

Sean Clinton, 39, and Patrick Magee, 34, were arrested Wednesday at their Short Strand homes. At their arraignment Thursday in Belfast Magistrates Court, both were charged with committing gross bodily harm and possessing offensive weapons. Clinton also was charged with organizing a riotous assembly, reports the AP.

P.T.