Fury over paramilitary display at funeral of IRA killer Tony 'TC' Catney
Outrage has greeted the spectacle of masked dissident republicans dressed in sinister military garb openly walking the streets of Belfast during a funeral.
Senior DUP figure Nelson McCausland said it was clearly a republican paramilitary event and called for the PSNI to investigate whether there were any breaches of the law.
The North Belfast MLA claimed that dissidents were "using funerals to assert themselves" and called on the police to take action.
The funeral yesterday was that of former IRA killer Tony 'TC' Catney.
Hundreds turned out to bid a final farewell to Catney who died on Saturday, August 9, following a struggle with cancer.
The funeral in the Suffolk area of west Belfast was attended by a number of prominent republicans who have fallen out of step with Sinn Fein including Breandan McConnaith, Ivor Bell and Brian Shivers.
Former IRA man and Sinn Fein critic Anthony McIntyre was one of the coffin bearers.
The cortege was flanked by a number of masked men in military garb, and the coffin was draped with an Irish tricolour while a beret and pair of gloves lay on top.
A new mural has already been painted in his memory at Ardoyne Avenue. Mr McCausland said the display was "shameful".
"Some weeks ago there was a similar paramilitary funeral in Ardoyne and it is clear that dissident republicans are using such funerals to assert themselves, just as they used their shameful march through Belfast on Sunday," he said.
"The police have a duty to carry out a full investigation to see what breaches of the law have taken place and to identify any culprits.
"Moreover there is an emerging pattern of such paramilitary funerals and we will want to discuss with the police as soon as possible how they handle such paramilitary demonstrations."
Catney was jailed in 1974 at the age of 16 for murdering Maurice Knowles (17) from Rathcoole on the shores of Belfast Lough.
He was released in 1990 and became Sinn Fein's head of elections.
However, in recent years he had moved away from the mainstream republican movement over a disagreement with the Sinn Fein strategy, despite being the brother-in-law of leading member and MLA Gerry Kelly.
Catney subsequently became involved with the Republican Network for Unity and took part in associated dissident groups and activity.
He denied claims that he was the leader of the Real IRA in Belfast during an interview with the Sunday Life in 2009, saying the dissident group "doesn't even exist in Belfast apart from one person".
He challenged the PSNI to arrest him if they believed that.
Catney's funeral left his home in Suffolk at 9.30am accompanied by around 200 mourners before Requiem Mass was celebrated at nearby St Oliver Plunkett Church.
Instructions were given to mourners by the Irish Republican Prisoners Welfare Association to wear black and white.
The group paid tribute to Catney as someone who had worked tirelessly for republican prisoners currently jailed at Maghaberry, Hydebank and Portlaoise prisons.
Another group – Justice for the Craigavon Two (JFTC2), aimed at clearing the names of Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton who were convicted of the murder of PSNI Constable Steven Carroll in 2009 – also expressed sadness at Catney's death.
"TC was one of the founding members of the JFTC2 campaign, his ability for organisation and his strategic thinking, coupled with a great wit and an even greater personality, brought clarity of purpose and drive to the campaign," the group said.
Detectives from the PSNI Serious Crime Branch investigating dissident republican activity arrested a 27-year-old man in the Belfast area yesterday.
He was being questioned last night.