Newspaper tribute to Gerard 'Jock' Davison is to be investigated by Belfast City Council
An outpouring of support for a murdered IRA commander by community groups is set to be raised within Belfast City Council.
Some 63 groups signed an advert placed in a newspaper slamming media coverage of the Gerard Jock Davison murder.
They endorsed the former IRA commander in Belfast as a "selfless community stalwart", and slammed media coverage of his murder last week as "insensitive and disgraceful".
IRA rape victim Mairia Cahill claimed last night on social media that some of the groups didn't even exist. She said one had been defunct from 2011 and never had any dealing with the murdered man.
Davison is believed to have led Direct Action Against Drugs in the 1990s, a group responsible for the killings of more than a dozen drug dealers. He has also been connected with the murder of Robert McCartney.
Mr McCartney's sister Catherine has described the ad praising Davison as "nauseating".
Many of the 63 community groups which endorsed the ad - including the Markets Development Association where Davison worked before his death - have received funding in the past from Belfast City Council.
DUP councillor Christopher Stalford said he would be contacting council officers to ensure that no ratepayers' money went towards the ad.
"Civilised and decent people throughout the community who have suffered at the hands of republicans will be deeply disturbed and upset if groups being funded by Belfast City Council were engaging in such behaviour," he said.
"I will be contacting council officers to ascertain if one penny piece of ratepayers' money was used for this advertisement and if it was, that raises serious questions that will need to be addressed going forward."
Signatories included St Malachy's GAA club in the Markets and a youth club based at Clonard Monastery. The GAA did not comment, while the youth club said it was funded by the Education and Library Board and managed by the church. Fintan Hargey from the Markets Development Association said the ad was paid for by personal donations from members of the groups. "It was organised from his friends and colleagues in the Markets Development Association and was made up by personal donations from the groups involved," he said.
North Belfast DUP MLA Nelson McCausland criticised what he termed the attempt by the groups to "whitewash" Davison's past.
"The list of those groups paying 'tribute' to Gerard Davison appears to make the twisted and disgraceful assertion that the media should ignore his role as a member of an illegal terrorist organisation," he said. "Whatever Gerard Davison's past activities, nothing can justify his murder. However, no attempt should be made to whitewash his activities as an IRA commander in Belfast."
Mr McCausland singled out victims group Relatives for Justice for supporting the ad.
"That a supposed 'victims group' like Relatives for Justice would add their name to these words can only further justify the anger and outrage felt by many victims of IRA terrorism," he said.
"At a time when so many community and voluntary groups have highlighted the impact that funding reductions have had on their work it would also be interesting to know whether any funding received from statutory agencies or government bodies was used to fund this piece of revisionist propaganda."