Kevin McGuigan funeral: Murdered dad laid to rest as PSNI keep watch amid fears of reprisal attack from feuding republicans
Heavily armed police officers were on standby across Belfast yesterday for the funeral of murdered republican Kevin McGuigan.
The significant security operation - involving scores of police Land Rovers, the PSNI helicopter and officers dressed in full protective uniform and armed with rifles - was launched as hundreds of mourners gathered in the republican Short Strand area of east Belfast.
The scale of the security operation was a response to policing concerns that further attacks among feuding republicans is imminent.
Ex-IRA man McGuigan was shot dead at his home at Comber Court in the Short Strand last Wednesday.
It is believed he was killed in retaliation for the murder of his former IRA comrade Jock Davison. The guns used in both the murders have not been recovered.
Despite the large police presence, officers kept themselves discreetly out of view of mourners who cheered, clapped and sang songs outside the father-of-nine's home.
Floral tributes were placed on the ground outside his house ahead of the service.
A number of school children and young GAA players formed a guard of honour as the coffin, draped in an Irish tricolour, was carried the short distance from his home to St Matthew's Church for requiem Mass.
The coffin was carried to the church by his sons and other family members, accompanied by his widow Dolores.
Among the mourners was Sinn Fein former lord mayor of Belfast, Niall O Donnghaile, who is from the Short Strand district.
Several police Land Rovers were also positioned close to the church at a sectarian flashpoint on the lower Newtownards Road to ensure that no violence erupted between loyalists and republicans.
A small group of loyalists who had gathered in the area jeered as the funeral procession came into view.
Fr John Nevin, who conducted the funeral service, spoke out against the murder, saying that "violence does not solve problems".
"I have no answers for these tragedies that wreck families ... The only thing you can take from this is that violence and war and revenge do not solve problems but create more. The circle goes on", the priest said.
Fr Nevin added: "Mistakes people make are highlighted in the media. The good they do are often buried with their bones."
A heavy, but discreet, security operation was also in place around Belfast City Cemetery for the burial where mourners once again clapped and sang songs.
Several of the male mourners removed their black ties and threw them in with the coffin.
Police withdrew from the area as the mourners dispersed.