Belfast Telegraph

Gun salute for INLA killer ‘deplorable and mindless’

The paramilitary colour party at the wake of former INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney
The paramilitary colour party at the wake of former INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney
Martin McElkerney
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

A community worker has said it is "grossly depressing" that guns were brought onto Belfast streets again after a volley of shots were fired at the wake of former INLA prisoner Martin McElkerney on Monday night.

Police confirmed they are investigating social media footage of the paramilitary display outside his home at Ross Street in west Belfast.

Rob McAdam, who works in communities across Belfast and was driving through the area when the shots were fired, said it was obvious a colour party had been planned in honour of the republican.

He died after being discovered critically injured by a gunshot in Milltown Cemetery last Thursday.

"It's grossly depressing that in 2019 we still have this action," he said.

"There's nothing respectful about firing a volley of shots in a built-up residential area, close to schools, close to a health care facility. It's deplorable and mindless.

"What goes up must come down. Where did the bullets go? Where did the shell casings go?"

Social media footage showed a masked man in a white shirt and black tie discharging several rounds skywards, surrounded by others similarly dressed and wearing balaclavas as onlookers cheer and applaud.

Ulster Unionist justice spokesman Doug Beattie MLA said it was time the Secretary of State found out whether terrorist ceasefires were genuine.

"I'm increasingly concerned about the brazen nature in which guns are being brought onto our streets to intimidate, assert control and more recently to fire shots in support of dead terrorists," he said.

"It is time that Karen Bradley asked the Chief Constable for an updated assessment of the capabilities of these terrorist organisations.

"Are they genuinely on ceasefire or are they in the process of rearming? Where are these weapons coming from and what structures are being used to transport them around the country?"

DUP Policing Board member Keith Buchanan also condemned the incident.

"Paramilitaries should have left the stage long ago," he said.

"Those who cling to the trappings of terrorism should feel the full weight of the law."

Sinn Fein said there was no place for guns on the streets.

"All armed groups should disband immediately," it added.

Alliance justice spokesman Stewart Dickson described the scene "shocking and utterly unacceptable".

"This was a disturbing reminder that some still want to take us to the dark days of the past. Guns can only destroy and as long as those holding them are at large, lives are at risk."

And SDLP councillor Brian Heading said the community is "sick and tired" of such displays.

"The practice of firing shots in a built-up area has no place in our society, not now, not ever," he said.

PSNI Superintendent Melanie Jones said police were aware of the video.

"Bringing any weapons onto the streets, whether imitation or real, is a reckless act and one that serves no other purpose than to cause fear and intimidation," she said.

"It was not a sign of respect. It was a criminal act carried out by those who would seek to exploit and control the community through the fear of violence.

"We carried out a search of an area in Ross Street on Tuesday morning. Detectives are aware of commentary online and in the media, and are keeping an open mind about who was involved.

"I would again appeal to anyone with information to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111."

McElkerney (57) was jailed in 1987 for his part in a 1982 booby-trap bomb which killed two schoolboys, Kevin Valliday (11) and his friend Stephen Bennet (14), as well as 20-year-old Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller. He was released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

His funeral will take place at 11am in St Peter's Cathedral, Belfast tomorrow.

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