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Public want justice to be done

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 20/08/2015

The arrest of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly as part of police investigations into the murder of Kevin McGuigan will be viewed by many as a signal that the PSNI believes the killing was carried out by republicans
The arrest of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly as part of police investigations into the murder of Kevin McGuigan will be viewed by many as a signal that the PSNI believes the killing was carried out by republicans

The questioning of Shankill bomber Sean Kelly as part of police investigations into the murder of Kevin McGuigan will be viewed by many as a signal that the PSNI believes the killing was carried out by republicans. It has to be borne in mind, however, that no charges have been laid against Kelly, and he was released without charge last night.

In the immediate aftermath of the killing of Mr McGuigan the most prominent theory being expounded on the street was that it was carried out in revenge for the murder of Gerard Davison, a former IRA commander in the city, and a one-time friend of McGuigan.

The finger of suspicion was being pointed firmly towards the mainstream IRA. At least, the theory ran, it was former colleagues of Davison who had a hand in the killing.

The PSNI has been careful not to clarify its opinion on who detectives believe was responsible. Quite rightly, police are keeping their suspicions to themselves, as any firm evidence of IRA involvement could have serious political repercussions.

First Minister Peter Robinson has already warned that it would be unacceptable for any organisation that is involved in violence to be part of the Executive at Stormont. Sinn Fein has strongly denied that the IRA was involved, but that has not stilled the voices of political opponents.

The arrest of Kelly has also led to calls by some senior unionist figures for his licence to be revoked and that he be returned to jail.

However, he deserves the same right as everyone else to be regarded as not guilty of any crime until proven otherwise, and the Secretary of State would need very firm intelligence evidence of him breaching the terms of his licence before she could revoke it.

What all this does is to create an atmosphere of uncertainty. People are waiting to see if police can establish a clear evidence trail, which will allow them to charge and put on trial people they suspect of being involved in the killing in some form or other.

It is evident, however, that the public do not want any suggestion that political considerations could hamper the PSNI investigation. They want to be reassured that detectives will go wherever the evidence leads, irrespective of any wider ramifications.

The public are in no mood to compromise on this issue. If mainstream republicans were involved, then Sinn Fein will surely suffer collateral damage.

Belfast Telegraph

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