Gerard 'Jock' Davison: Stuck in the shadow of the Robert McCartney killing, but never far from senior republicans
A one-time IRA commander turned community worker, Gerard 'Jock' Davison remained a leading figure within republican circles despite being stood down by the IRA in the wake of the Robert McCartney murder in 2005.
Alleged to have ordered the 33-year-old's killing, Davison was questioned by police but later released without charge, and always denied involvement.
He was also forced to deny allegations that he was a Special Branch tout.
Even after leaving the IRA he remained supportive of Sinn Fein and, in recent times, was working within the south Belfast community.
Described as a deeply unsavoury figure who had many enemies, Davison (47) had risen quickly through the ranks of the IRA. During the 1980s he served time in prison for explosives offences. He became commanding officer of the IRA in south Belfast and sat on its general headquarters staff. His family was closely aligned to the republican movement during the Troubles and in 1988 his uncle, convicted IRA man Brendan 'Ruby' Davison, was shot dead by the UVF near the scene of yesterday's killing.
Despite his lofty status, the IRA cut Davison loose after the murder of Mr McCartney.
The father-of-two from the Short Strand was beaten and stabbed to death outside Magennis's bar in Belfast city centre. His killing sparked a major crisis for the peace process, at a time when Sinn Fein was involved in political negotiations aimed at securing its support for the police.
It was claimed Davison ordered Mr McCartney's murder. He was involved in a fight in Magennis's that preceded the assault outside the pub. At one stage during the melee, Davison was reputed to have glanced at some of his IRA associates and drawn his finger across his throat - a signal as to what he wanted done to Mr McCartney and his friend Brendan Devine.
A month after Mr McCartney's murder, the IRA issued a statement in which it said that it and the "Belfast Command" had "court-martialled" and dismissed three "volunteers, two of whom were high-ranking volunteers".Davison was reported to have been one of those expelled.
In an interview a few days later, he refused to be drawn on whether he was one of the three.
Denying he ordered the killing, Davison said: "I would like to get somebody to stand over that. I totally refute that.
"I'm from the Short Strand, he's a neighbour of mine, he's a member of my community. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that I would even involve myself in an incident like that."
He added: "I sorted out the problem with Robert McCartney in seconds and I was attacked by a thug so I'm as much a victim of circumstances as everybody else."
Davison denied knowing about the clean-up operation in the bar by IRA members, when the tape from a security camera was stolen.
The killing of Mr McCartney was not the first death Davison was linked to. Around 10 years earlier, he was suspected of involvement in the murder of a local drugs dealer, Mickey 'Moneybags' Mooney, who was shot dead as he sat drinking in a city centre bar. His murder was one of nine assassinations of alleged drug dealers in Belfast carried out around or after the time of the IRA ceasefires by Direct Action Against Drugs, a cover name for the Provos.
Despite being stood down in the wake of the McCartney murder, Davison continued to associate with leading republicans. Soon afterwards he was spotted in the Short Strand walking side-by-side with IRA hard man Bobby Storey. And ahead of the 2005 general election he was also seen canvassing on behalf of several Sinn Fein candidates.
He remained well connected with the republican movement, and retained his fearsome reputation. Locals claimed that, even after drifting away from the IRA, Davison continued to associate with criminals and could be seen swaggering around the Markets with his cohorts.
Previously Mr McCartney's sister, Catherine, questioned whether Davison was an informer. Her book, Walls of Silence, raised the possibility that he was being protected by Special Branch at the time of her brother's murder.
Speaking to the Sunday Life in 2007, Davison insisted he was not a tout.
"I never, ever gave any information on my comrades or my friends during my 25 years in the republican movement. Any republican who knows me knows this," he said. "There is not one shred of truth in this suggestion that I was an agent."
Davison also rejected claims he gave the order for the McCartney stabbing by drawing a finger across his throat.
"I admit that I was involved in an altercation with Brendan Devine inside the bar, but the allegation that I later made this famous hand signal is simply not true," he added.
Davison's uncle, Terence, was acquitted in 2008 of Mr McCartney's killing.