Death in details
When Danny McCartney left Belfast and the Troubles well behind him when he moved to for Scotland in the early 1970s, he thought he had left the past there too. But the past came back to haunt him in a phone call in April of this year brought it back into his front room, when the voice on the other end of the phone informed him that the man who had killed his sister over 30 years ago was dead.
McCartney had never knew the identity of his sister's murderer. The only thing he knew was that Rosemary McCartney his sister, was the first female victim of the sectarian killings of the Troubles that reached a frenzy in the summer of 1972. The "who" and the "how" details of Rosemary's murder were lost among in the hysteria that gripped the nationalist community and the collusion, now established, of the parts of the security forces in the Loyalist backlash against the Provisional IRA. But the "why" One thing, however, was self-evident. Rosemary was a Catholic.
"Rosie was a great girl and great fun," says Danny. "She introduced me to the music scene in the city, taking me to a Dubliners concert in Belfast in 1966. She also took me to Pat's Bar."
After his sister's death, Danny was encouraged by his Scottish mother Vera to come to Scotland. "She thought I could be next," he says. - and a After a period in Dublin he came to Edinburgh for a wedding, met a girl and decided to stay.
Now a respected and popular man who works for Edinburgh council, he is married to Carol and they have two children. But over the all these years the pain of Rosemary's death has never gone away, although he has kept it private. Most people in his new life in Scotland are unaware of his past.
Now, with the death of his sister's killer, there has come a release through knowing what really happened.
"I'll still hear a song," Danny says, "and turn to Carol and say: 'Our Rosemary used to sing that' ... and then I'll stop. She was a beautiful singer and you know what singers are like, always singing.
She'd be doing the ironing and she would be singing. A song I always associate with her is The First Time I Ever Saw Her Face.
"We were a close-knit family, me, Rosemary, together with my brothers Gerry and Ben and sisters Veronica, Angela and Marie and we mixed together in the music scene. It was a great crowd from both sides. Most of my girlfriends were Protestants. The night she died I was due to meet her in Kelly's Cellar, another well-known bar, but she never turned up."
The wound from that night, 21 July 1972, was ripped open again with the phone call from Belfast. It was his sister Marie on the line. That day t There had been an article in the Irish Times by Kevin Myers naming Rosemary's killer. It had been reviewed on What the Papers Say on Radio Ulster by Malachi O'Doherty. A niece phoned Marie who rushed out to buy a copy.
"A few days ago, a certain gentleman made a discovery of interest to us all: whether or not the devil exists," Myers began. "For last Wednesday the Loyalist terrorist Davy Payne was buried."
Myers, who has covered the Troubles extensively, knew Payne's track record and described him as "one of the most ferocious savages in the history of Irish terrorism". The former RTE journalist also pointed the finger at the security forces who allowed him and his ilk to roam freely in North and West Belfast in 1971-72.
Payne had a notorious reputation and is said to have invented the "Romper Room", macabrely named after the children's television programme at the time, where the UDA interrogated and tortured their victims. Myers named UDA leader Tommy Lyttle, who had participated in the killing spree, in a follow-up article. Lyttle had since named "names", particularly about the murder of Rosemary McCartney, and newly in love with her boyfriend Patrick O'Neill.
At the time the family believed they had inadvertently disclosed their religion hiring a taxi and this had been picked up by the killers tuning into the radio frequency. A stolen cab, they thought, was sent to pick them up.
However the Lyttle revelations suggest otherwise. O'Neill and McCartney were stopped by a UDA roadblock and taken for a "rompering" where Payne, an ex-British paratrooper and self-styled "brigadier", interrogated them.
As Martin Dillon and Dennis Lehane, two former Belfast Telegraph journalists, catalogued almost 200 assassinations in this 12 month period Political Murder in Northern Ireland (Penguin, 1973), this was not random and motiveless, but part of an organised and concerted campaign by the UDA since the suspension of Stormont that March. The UDA had got their hands on hundreds of files on IRA men, but preferred easy targets. blameless Catholics.
The IRA for their part were not duly perturbed. Myers recalled the chilling reaction of Daithi O'Connel, one of the Provos leaders in the early Seventies. If anything it was good for them. The UDA never really got IRA men and the killings led to an upsurge in recruitment. It also contributed to social anarchy as the Provos tried to smash the British state in Ulster at, what seems, any cost.
At the "romper room" O'Neill was beaten and burnt with cigarettes. In Lyttle's account they found a membership card for a traditional music club in Rosemary's bag.
"Payne was fascinated," Myers says. "'Was she really a singer', he asked. 'She was, aye'. 'Prove it', he said. 'Go on, prove it'. 'How', she asked. 'By singing', he said."
According to Lyttle's account the Loyalists were impressed and congratulated her. But Payne insisted she die for two reasons. She had been unable to give them information on an IRA man who also lived in Iris Street and because he had never killed a woman. They were then bundled into a car. Payne shot them and then the other UDA men present took turns shooting them. It was a standard act of complicity.
Danny recalls: "My hands shook as I read all this. I was in shock even though my sister had already read it out to me over the phone. Still, I had never heard the name Davy Payne before. There were many rumours at the time, even that she had been mutilated, and I later thought it might have been John White."
White, another notorious Loyalist, has remained prominent in the UDA as political adviser to Johnny "Mad Dog" Adair. Both he and Payne were to be involved in the murder of another woman months after Rosemary. This time it was Irene Andrews, the Protestant girlfriend of SDLP Senator Paddy Wilson.
Unlike Rosemary's case, a high-level investigation of the politician and his girlfriend's murder was mounted by the RUC. White confessed under interrogation and was convicted for what the judge described as "a frenzied attack, a psychotic outburst". But Payne never cracked.
Meanwhile the McCartneys waited in vain for never got a visit from the RUC. They could understand that knocking on doors in the Falls at that time was precarious for the police. But what incenses them is they didn't never even get a phone call or a letter. At last Even when Gerry wrote to the RUC with information passed on to him, but he didn't even get an acknowledgement.
In 1989 Ginger Baker, serving 25 years for the murder of four Catholics in the early 1970s, wrote to the Stevens Inquiry and his letter was printed in the Irish News.
Baker claimed the RUC drove weapons through checkpoints, handed files to the UDA and tipped off Loyalists to prevent arms seizures. He accused an RUC officer of being second in command in 1972-73 of a UDA battalion in Belfast. Baker claimed he could name RUC officers.
"Collusion between security forces and Loyalist extremists has always existed. I can prove this absolutely. However the terrible truth which I can reveal may well result in another cover-up." The Stevens Inquiry confirmed they had spoken to him. Now the McCartneys intend to report the case to the Ombudsman.
"We know there are hundreds of others like us but we want an acknowledgement," Danny says. "I had already been to three funerals in the fortnight before Rosemary died." [There were ten killings in that period]. fortnight Even on the morning of Rosemary's funeral I attended another out of respect to the Davidson family who had also lost their son".
The night when Rosemary did not turn up at Kelly's, Danny had waited up at home before falling asleep on the settee. The next day he returned to Kelly's.
"I knew there was something wrong when Gerry was called to the Tennents Street police barracks. His face was white. I had to go and tell my parents. My father never drank in the house but sent out for a half bottle of whisky. He was like a wee child and cried like a baby. He never recovered. He would come home from work, have his tea and go up to bed. He could not bear the thought of Rosemary not coming home."
His mother always regretted Rosemary did not get a proper burial. Instead of the Irish custom of the body lying in the house, Gerry, who had identified the body, decided to close the coffin and take it to the chapel. It was only when speaking to him on the phone from Danny's Edinburgh home this week that he revealed why. Rosemary had been shot three times in the face. Danny did not know that and Gerry had never been able to tell the family. Meanwhile Their mother Vera didn't never really speak about it until Danny and Carol lost their baby in a cot death in 1977.
"The floodgates burst as my mother opened up to Carol about what it is like to lose a child." The "wee Scottish wummin", as the neighbour referred to Vera, never swore but after Rosemary she would refer to Belfast as "this bloody place".
Danny McCartney has always missed Ireland and returns for family visits. "I love the people," he says. "But I would not go back and subject Carol and my children to the hatred."
Meanwhile sectarianism has rarely blighted his life here. "There were only two occasions. Once when I worked in a bar a woman whose brother was a soldier started having a go at me. Then at the time of Enniskillen I was living in Marchmont and went into the Argyll Bar. It was my local and I had always got on well with everyone. But the owner and one of the customers turned on me because I was Irish. That really hurt. I wanted to tell them I knew what it was like to lose someone. But I could never use Rosemary like that. I would never use it as an excuse. Not for anything or anybody. I just had to take it, but it hurt all right".
Danny McCartney knows many others who have lost someone and points out. "They don't believe in an eye for an eye. I even feel sorry for people who did these things as they lost their humanity."
Danny McCartney and his family have held on to theirs, the memory of Rosemary and with it the pain. There is no closure but there is catharsis.
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