Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Man gets life for driving dissident republican gang's victim to church execution

A bus driver has been sentenced to life in prison for the murder of a 27-year-old man in a church car park almost four years ago.

Andrew Burns was shot in a dissident republican attack at a church in Donnyloop, Co Donegal, in February 2008.

Martin Kelly (37), of Barack Street, Strabane, Co Tyrone, drove Mr Burns to the church, where he was shot dead.

Kelly was told to bring Mr Burns from his home in Strabane to Donnyloop for a punishment shooting.

He drove him to the church car park where three men were waiting.

A gunman fired at Mr Burns, who ran before being killed by a second shot. The three men then got into Kelly's car and he drove them back across the border, stopping to hide the gun in a hedge.

The family of Mr Burns, a 27-year-old painter and decorator, left the Special Criminal Court in Dublin yesterday after telling of the indescribable pain, grief and trauma they continue to suffer after the murder.

In a victim impact statement, Mr Burns's sister, Michelle Coyle, said she and her younger brother were very close and "shared hopes, dreams and futures".

"Today, and for the rest of my life, I am mourning the loss of my brother, my best friend and protector," she said.

"Andrew's death has affected us in so many ways, physically, mentally and emotionally."

Larry Burns, a brother of the victim, said that his death had "a profound effect" on all his family. After the sentencing, Superintendent Vincent O'Brien, said it had been a very lengthy investigation involving 30 detectives.

He said gardai had worked closely with the PSNI and that the investigation was "ongoing".

"I would appeal to any witnesses from the Strabane area or Donnyloop who know anything about this to contact the gardai or the PSNI," he added.

Kelly was also sentenced to eight years in prison for possession of a firearm.

Mr Justice Paul Butler said the court had no discretion on the murder charge.

Mr Burns was involved with the dissident republican group Oglaigh na hEireann, as was Martin Kelly.

Kelly had previously been interviewed by gardai and the PSNI at a hotel in the North where he admitted what he had done. He also named the others who were involved.

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