Belfast Telegraph

Dublin minister Flanagan holds emotional talks with widow of slain taxi driver

By Allan Preston

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan had an emotional meeting in Belfast yesterday with the widow of a man murdered by dissident republicans.

Joanne McGibbon's taxi driver husband Michael bled to death after being blasted in the legs by paramilitaries in north Belfast last month.

Dissidents have been blamed for a spate of recent shootings across north and west Belfast that have left two men dead and others badly injured.

Mr Flanagan was in Belfast to meet politicians and community leaders in his first official visit since being reappointed to the Irish cabinet.

The Fine Gael TD was invited to Ardoyne by Fr Gary Donegan, parish priest for Holy Cross Church.

"He's been here before and he's always shown an interest in the area," said Fr Donegan.

"He just wanted to show solidarity with the people and Joanne herself.

"Basically he offered his condolences publicly to her and spoke of the revulsion of what had been visited to her and her family and offered any support that he could for her."

During the visit to the Houben Centre in Ardoyne, Mr Flanagan also met with community workers.

"People spoke very directly to him - they didn't sugar coat the reality of living here," said Fr Donegan.

He added that since the weekend two names had been added to a list of 30 people under threat from paramilitaries.

"It's reaching a level that I've never experienced in my time here," said Fr Donegan.

"Some people are leaving not just the area but the country itself. You cannot take away from the possibility these threats could be acted upon.

"What we're saying to Charlie Flanagan today is the majority of people here are working really hard to make this place work."

Fr Donegan said that he was thankful to Mr Flanagan for his presence and time, but it was important that he listened to and supported the people of the area.

"You could sense that's what Charlie Flanagan was about, he wanted to come and listen," he said.

Earlier, Mr Flanagan met Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and the new Speaker of the Assembly Robin Newton.

During the meeting, Mr Flanagan raised the Irish government's concerns about the UK referendum on membership of the European Union.

Speaking afterwards Mr McGuinness said they had "a very wide-ranging discussion".

The legacy of the Troubles was also high on the agenda with Mr Flanagan meeting Victims Commissioner Judith Thompson and UN special rapporteur Pablo de Greiff. The final stop on the trip was with senior officials from the Irish Football Association (IFA).

Both Northern Ireland and the Republic have qualified for the Euro 2016 finals and Mr Flanagan had said he was delighted that thousands of fans from both sides of the border would be travelling to France next month to cheer on their side.

Belfast Telegraph


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