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Ex-GARC man Montgomery dead man walking - Belfast dissident on run from death squad

By Sarah Henderson

Published 26/10/2016

Joe Montgomery, from Ardoyne, in Belfast
Joe Montgomery, from Ardoyne, in Belfast

This is the leading dissident republican described as “a dead man walking” after avoiding an execution attempt.

He is north Belfast man Joe Montgomery, who fled his Ardoyne home after being tipped off that the Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) terror gang, which gunned down drug dealer Joe Reilly on Thursday, was on his tail.

Anti-loyalist parade protester Montgomery, who has been photographed at a number of protests, is now in hiding after ONH made it clear in two published statements that he tops a death list.

The first threat read: “ONH sought to execute a man from north Belfast... however he fled his home before our volunteers reached him. He is aware he has no other option but to leave the country.”

While the Ardoyne man, 47, may have escaped unharmed, his good friend Peter Lagan, 56, was not as lucky.

He was abducted by ONH in the Ligoniel area of north Belfast and taken to the Poleglass estate in the west of the city, where he was shot six times in the legs.

Ex-prisoner Lagan was accused of anti-social activity by the terror gang, which is trying to re-establish itself in republican heartlands that are now dominated by the New IRA.

Like Joe Montgomery, his under-threat pal, Lagan is an anti-loyalist parades protester.

Until recently, both were prominent during dissident Greater Ardoyne Residents Collective (GARC) demonstrations on the Crumlin Road.

Lagan also worked voluntarily in the Conflict Resolution Services Ireland’s office in Ardoyne, which deals with threats against people from ONH.

Not content with trying to murder Joe Montgomery and crippling Peter Lagan, out-of-control ONH struck again on Thursday night.

This time its target was drug dealer Joe Reilly, 43, who was gunned down at his Glenwood Court home in the Poleglass estate. A second man who was in the property was tied up by the masked killers.

Reilly is the son of prominent dissident Kevin ‘Bap’ McQuillan, a former spokesman for RNU and before that the IRSP political wing of the INLA.

He now lives like a recluse, and rarely ventures from his heavily fortified home off the Springfield Road in west Belfast after a fall-out with the INLA.

Republican sources told Sunday Life that the wave of ONH attacks in the past week is an effort by its leaders to reassert the group in republican areas of Belfast.

In districts where the dissident gang was strong, like Ardoyne and Poleglass, it has haemorrhaged members to the New IRA.

“These shootings are an attempt by ONH to make itself relevant again,” said an insider.

“It has lost a lot of ground to the New IRA, which is by far the largest of the dissident gangs and which has muscled in on ONH criminal rackets and taken some of its members.”

ONH was dealt a bitter blow last year when its alleged Belfast leader, Carl Reilly, 40, was remanded in custody on directing terrorism charges.

Since then it has not carried out a single attack on security forces in the city.

However, ONH has continued to shoot criminals and rival dissident republicans — a fact evidenced by the murder of Joe Reilly and targeting of Joe Montgomery and Peter Lagan.

“Like the other dissident groups, all its leaders care about is making money,” said a second source.

“ONH will still carry out the odd token attack on the cops, but that’s only about keeping up the veneer of republicanism.”

Another issue which rankles with republicans is the fact that the allegations ONH levelled against Joe Montgomery and Peter Lagan are more than three years old.

Claims of criminality against the men first surfaced in 2012, but were dismissed at the time.

Now, under-pressure ONH is using them as justification for trying to murder Montgomery and shooting Lagan six times.

In a statement, the terror gang said: “During our investigation the individuals involved in the saboteur campaign were identified.”

But the truth of the matter is that ONH found the pair innocent of the allegations it has targeted them for three years ago.

An Ardoyne-based republican said: “ONH is a busted flush in Belfast. It’s leaders are deluded if they think shooting a couple of dissidents and a drug dealer will win support.”

ONH is led locally in Ardoyne by former Provisional IRA bomber Thomas Cosgrove, who was jailed for 16 years but freed early in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Until recent times he would have been close to both Joe Montgomery and Peter Lagan through their links to the GARC anti-loyalist parade protest group.

Cosgrove personally recruited a number of young former Provisional IRA members to ONH, but they left to join the New IRA because of a lack of military activity.

This severely weakened his Ardoyne faction and, like ONH in other republican areas of Belfast, it now plays second fiddle to the New IRA.

Peter Lagan, the man shot six times by ONH last weekend, is a former republican prisoner.

He talked about being jailed in the 2013 BBC documentary Ardoyne — Our Lives, which filmed local teenagers over a period of five months.

Revealing that he was in a relationship with a Protestant woman from the Shankill Road, Lagan told the cameras: “I ended up in Magilligan Prison for three years. I was arrested in the house for guns, ammunition and Semtex.

“But I got charged with withholding information because I hadn’t rang the police and said, ‘There’s guns in my house, come and get them’, because I was under threat. You know what I mean?”

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