Following the media over the past week, you'd think that Bertie's visit to the White House was the biggest thing Washington had seen in years. It's a bit humbling to go onto American media websites and discover that, apparently, nobody over there cares.

Additionally, my sources in D.C. - regular Washington Post readers who take a keen interest in Irish issues - also tell me that the visit by the Rafferty family has gone virtually unnoticed (in fact they haven't noticed it at all; they've never heard of the Raffertys). Certainly the hoopla that surrounded the McCartney family visit is nowhere to be found. And this is only fair, because Joe Rafferty's death had nothing to do with us. At all.

I can say this with absolute certainty. The man who is widely believed to have killed Joe Rafferty lives in my area. There is simply no way he could be a party member without my knowing it. Nor do I recall him taking part in any election campaigns in recent years, as has also been alleged. I can't, of course, speak with certainty about his alleged IRA membership but let's just say that I have no reason to believe he is a member and plenty of reasons to believe he isn't. And I note that even the infamous "garda sources" speaking to the Irish Times say no more than that he was an IRA member at one point. So was Joe Sherlock TD, and nobody would claim that therefore we have a responsibility for everything he does.

I am genuinely of the opinion that the Raffertys' crusade has done their chances of securing a conviction more harm than good. This is for a number of reasons. First, the fact is, and this can be easily ascertained by going back over the media reports they've given, they have changed their story a number of times. The day Joe was shot they told the Times that they "have no idea" why he was targetted. They have since given contradictory accounts of their dealings with the Gardaí and with local Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan (who is one of the most honourable men I know and completely undeserving of the shite he's had to put up with over the past year). If the case ever gets to court, any half-decent lawyer could use this evidence to undermine the family's credibility.

But I also think the family's campaign has played in a role in keeping the case from progressing at all. The adverse publicity Sinn Féin gets every time the family appears in the media first and foremost benefits our political opponents - some of whom are members of the Garda Síochána and the DPP office, and have an incentive to keep the case open and in the spotlight (possibly more of an incentive than they do to solve it, really, because they aren't being blamed for lack of progress). Furthermore, if there are any independent witnesses to the murder, wouldn't they be less likely to come forward if the campaign has convinced them that, doing so, they would risk the wrath of the 'Ra? It stands to reason, anyway.

The family, unfortunately for all concerned, have been getting bad advice on this. I am hopeful that now that the despicable local Fianna Fáil Councillor Gary Keegan has discovered he can't freewheel their case into Leinster House, he will crawl back under his rock and stop leading them down this futile path. But I suspect there will be many willing to take his place, and justice will be the loser.

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