Funeral of former IRA leader Billy McKee to be held on Saturday
The funeral of Billy McKee, one of the founding members of the Provisional IRA, will be held on Saturday in west Belfast.
Mr McKee passed away at his Belfast home on Tuesday at the age of 97.
He funeral service is expected to be one of the largest republican funerals the city has seen in recent times.
The lifelong republican first joined the IRA in the 1930s and was imprisoned for IRA activity numerous times over the years.
When the Troubles broke out in the late 1960s he became the OC (Officer Commanding) of the IRA's Belfast Brigade.
He was involved in a gun battle at St Matthew's Church in the Short Strand during which two Protestants were killed alongside a Catholic civilian. Mr McKee was shot five times during the fighting but survived.
While imprisoned in Crumlin Road in the early 1970s, the veteran republican led a hunger strike in a bid to win political status for paramilitary prisoners.
Mr McKee was forced out of the IRA in 1977 and spent his remaining years as a fierce critic of Sinn Fein's move towards peace.
His funeral will be held at 11am on Saturday at St Peter's Cathedral followed by burial at Milltown Cemetery.
Unrepentant about his terrorist activities until his death, Billy McKee believed physical violence was the only way of opposing British rule, according the friend and former IRA man Richard O'Rawe.
Speaking later in life he said: "From I was 15 until 65 I was in some way involved. I have had plenty of time since to think if I was right or I was wrong. I regret nothing."
Belfast Telegraph Digital