Irish Sisters Face Down The IRA

For Paula McCartney and her sisters, it is a voyage they never wanted -- and an enemy they never chose.

"Are you afraid of these people?" CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips asked.

"Absolutely not afraid, no," she replied. "I think they should be the ones to be afraid now."

The "they" is the IRA -- the Irish Republican Army -- once the self-declared protectors of Northern Ireland's Catholics but now accused of being neighborhood thugs who terrorize their own people.

The case in point is the murder of Robert McCartney -- a Catholic father of two young boys who was killed -- it's widely known -- by members of the IRA during a brawl in a Belfast bar.

The brawl apparently spilled out of Maginnis's bar and on to the street where he was beaten, stabbed and left for dead. "Apparently" because, of the more than 70 people in the bar at the time, none has come forward as a witness. They all say they were in the bathroom when McCartney was being killed. Together. At the same time, and saw nothing.

But the code of secrecy -- born out of loyalty and nurtured by fear -- on the mean streets of Catholic Belfast has been challenged by six bereaved and brave women: the murdered man's five sisters and his fiancee, the mother of his children. They've demanded that witnesses come forward and that the murderers be brought to justice.

The IRA's response -- that it was prepared to shoot the killers itself -- stupified even those who had supported it over the years of violence here.

"We told the IRA leadership from the outset that we wanted justice not revenge," Paula McCartney said. "So it was never an option for us that these people be shot."

The McCartney sisters' unprecedented campaign struck a chord heard as far away as Washington, to which the McCartney women have now traveled, because this year they have been invited to the White House for St Patrick's Day.

And Gerry Adams -- the leader of the IRA's political arm, Sinn Fein -- has been shunned, even though he too has now joined the family's call for justice.

The McCartney sisters' have been warned they're playing a dangerous game. To which they have a simple answer:

"We feel that without justice there is no equality and therefore there is no freedom."