Friend of murder victim Kevin McGuigan gets bullet in the post 'from IRA'
A Belfast mother-of-five has received a death threat in the name of the IRA. A bullet inside a sympathy card was posted to the Short Strand home of Martina McDonnell.
Martina and her children are friends of the family of Kevin McGuigan, who was shot dead by IRA members outside his home last month.
The PSNI is investigating the death threat. Detectives are examining the card and bullet, and police have advised Martina about increasing her family's security at their Short Strand property.
Speaking exclusively to the Belfast Telegraph last night, Martina said: "The people who sent this are cowards and bullyboys. I am very worried for my children's safety but I won't be intimidated.
"We will not be driven from our home. We have done nothing wrong. We are lifelong friends of Kevin McGuigan's family and that's why, I believe, we're being targeted. This shows what people in this area know too well - the IRA hasn't gone away."
The death threat arrived in the post to the McDonnells' home on Tuesday morning. It was addressed to Martina and her husband Gerard.
The 48-year-old mother-of-five said: "My daughter Orla opened it because she knew from the shape of it there was something inside the envelope. She was all excited, thinking it was a wee present.
"A bullet fell out onto the table. It was a big bullet from a rifle. We were absolutely shocked. The sympathy card had a picture of lilies on the front. Inside, it was signed 'IRA' in capital letters.
"It's very traumatic to receive something like that out of the blue. We were both really upset. We phoned the PSNI and they came and took the card and bullet away.
"I just wanted it out of the house, I didn't want to have to look at it again. I tried to keep the death threat secret from my other children but they found out. Then, the police came back to the house with booklets advising us on our security."
A PSNI spokesman last night said he couldn't discuss any individual's security. However, he added: "If we receive information that a person's life may be at risk we will inform the relevant persons accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk."
Martina said that, until the death threat, her family had no idea they'd fallen foul of the IRA. "There have been no fights, no confrontations, no rows on the street, nothing like that. But Kevin McGuigan's sons Teddy and Pearse are friends with my children. They grew up together and went to the same schools. Teddy and Pearse are in our house regularly.
"When Kevin was murdered, we placed a sympathy notice in the paper and we went to his funeral. I believe our friendship with his family is why we've received this death threat.
"But we won't close our door to the McGuigans. They've suffered a terrible loss and they will always be welcome in our home." Kevin McGuigan, a father-of-nine, was shot dead by two black-clad gunmen outside his house in Comber Court.
His murder followed an IRA investigation which ruled that he was the assassin who had gunned down ex-Provo commander Jock Davison in May. Three other men have also received IRA threats following the murder.
Martina said she wasn't planning to leave the Short Strand: "I was born and reared here and I won't be moving. Of course, I'm worried about my kids' safety but I'm not afraid of the IRA. My neighbours know about the threat and they've been very supportive."
Last night Martina and her family attended Kevin McGuigan's Month's Mind - a Mass celebrated one month after a person's death in their memory - in St Matthew's Church in the Short Strand.
Martina's sister Sinead Commander said: "It's disgraceful that Martina is now living in fear of her life. This death threat sweeps away all the nonsense that the IRA doesn't exist. On the ground, we all know it exists as much as it ever did.
"My sister has done nothing wrong except be a friend to a murdered man's family."
Sinead and her family were forced to leave their Short Strand home after her husband Jeff, a friend of Robert McCartney's, was beaten up in September 2005.
Jeff made a statement to the PSNI about the assault.
A week later he received a police warning that his life was in danger.
A court later heard that Jeff had been attacked by a gang of up to 10 men, some of whom were armed with sewer rods, in the Short Strand. He required four staples to a head wound after the assault.
Three men later pleaded guilty to assault occasioning actual bodily harm. They were given conditional discharges by the court. The Commanders moved to a religiously mixed area of south Belfast.