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Questions raised over PSNI's 'effectiveness of evidence gathering' after shots fired in tribute to son of INLA leader McGlinchey

By Cate McCurry and Donna Deeney

Questions have been raised over the PSNI's "effectiveness of evidence gathering" following a paramilitary tribute to veteran republican Declan McGlinchey which saw masked men fire shots in a show of strength.

At least three armed men were photographed firing handguns after the son of the INLA leader died on Sunday sparking Unionist anger.

The coffin of the republican was also flanked by at least nine people wearing balaclavas at his Bellaghy home in south Co Londonderry before yesterday's funeral.

Prior to the funeral DUP Policing Board Member Jonathan Craig said he spoke to the PSNI about the necessity for "proper evidence gathering procedures" given the "likelihood of an "illegal paramilitary presence".

The Lagan Valley MLA said: "Over the last number of months repeated incidents have been highlighted to the PSNI of paramilitary displays at the funerals of well-known republicans.

"The disparity with how such events have been policed compared to other events when high-profile evidence gathering operations have been put in place to prosecute people for playing musical instruments.

"With the precedent of paramilitary displays at other republican funerals and questions being raised even before this funeral it is now for the police to demonstrate their ability to compile a case against those involved in the illegal activity at this event.

"I will be raising the case again at the Policing Board to monitor progress and I know that many people will want a demonstration that those who put on a mask and paramilitary uniform do not effectively make themselves immune from prosecution.”

Mr Craig has furthered calls from fellow DUP member Jeffrey Donald who called for the PSNI to review its approach to handling paramilitary funerals and was critical of the police response to the incident. He said this latest paramilitary act was a "blatant and ugly display of terrorism" at a funeral.

The Lagan Valley MP said: "We need to be very clear and firm as to how we respond to this kind of intimidatory and violent display.

"There is a question as to how much the police must have known or anticipated that we would have this kind of display. I hope the police will now be vigorous in persuing this illegality and bring the people involved before the courts for possession of illegal weapons."

IRA leader Eddie Copeland helped carry the flag-draped coffin of Mr McGlinchey yesterday.

Pallbearers wearing white shirts and black berets also carried the coffin, which was covered in a starry plough flag and Irish tricolour, on which rested a pair of black leather gloves.

The coffin was escorted by marching men and hundreds of mourners before the cortege reached St Mary's Church for Requiem Mass.

The 39-year-old, a son of INLA leader Dominic McGlinchey, died suddenly at the weekend from a massive heart attack, which Fr Andrew Dolan told the congregation was brought on by the strains he endured from his childhood.

It is understood that Mr McGlinchey's only brother Dominic jnr - who was questioned on suspicion of involvement in the murders of two soldiers at Massereene Army base in 2009 - did not attend the funeral after the PSNI refused to give him assurances that he would not be arrested if he crossed the border.

Neither brother was charged with the soldiers' murders.

Veteran civil rights campaigner Bernadette McAliskey walked alongside Mr McGlinchey's uncle Sean McGlinchey, a Sinn Fein councillor.

Mr McGlinchey is survived by his wife Brenda and seven children. The Martyrs of Eireann band, which Mr McGlinchey helped set up, led the cortege while a group of men in white shirts, black jackets and gloves marched alongside the coffin as it made its way to the church.

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