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Violent end for Continuity IRA leader Tommy Crossan


Tommy Crossan

Tommy Crossan

Tommy Crossan

The man shot dead in West Belfast was once the leader of a hardline republican faction which remained wedded to violence.


Today he became a victim himself after reportedly falling out with the organisation - although responsibility has yet to be confirmed.

Tommy Crossan headed the Continuity IRA (CIRA) following his split from the mainstream Provisional IRA during the Northern Ireland peace process.

While the IRA moved towards decommissioning of arms, the CIRA's aim remained to kill members of the security forces in pursuit of its goal of a united Ireland.

With the weight of public opinion against it in the communities from which it hails - the endorsement of peace process-supporting Sinn Fein candidates in elections has been overwhelming - senior police officers have said so-called dissident republicans of various shades have engaged in drug dealing and racketeering.

The CIRA's most notorious action was the killing of Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Constable Stephen Carroll in 2009. Constable Carroll died as he attended a call for help at a housing estate in Craigavon, Co Armagh.

The officer, originally from Co Kildare in the Irish Republic, was shot by a sniper and became the first police fatality since 1998, the year of the Good Friday Agreement which largely ended three decades of conflict.

But the armed organisation of the Catholic policeman's killers has a record of extremism dating back to its own separation from the mainstream IRA in 1986.

It followed an argument over whether Sinn Fein members should be allowed to stand for elections as part of its peace process strategy. Sinn Fein's stance was to lead to discussions in Downing Street and allowed former IRA commander Martin McGuinness to eventually share office at Stormont with the Protestant fundamentalist Democratic Unionists' Rev Ian Paisley.

The CIRA remained a fairly minor player until the IRA of Mr McGuinness and others declared its ceasefire in 1994.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), established by the British and Irish Governments to report on paramilitaries, said in 2007 that the group remained "a very serious threat" and the following year warned that it was "active, dangerous and committed and... capable of a greater level of violent and other crime".

The IMC said then that the Continuity IRA had tried to create trouble to lure in police, then stoning and using petrol bombs against them.

It also said the group was involved in criminal activity like assaults, drug dealing, robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and smuggling.

The organisation was said to be also actively recruiting and training members, particularly disgruntled former members of the Provisional IRA, among them Crossan.

Until the killing of Constable Carroll their attacks were relatively low-profile, compared with the rival Real IRA which bombed Omagh with the loss of 29 lives.

The Continuity IRA has now been thrust back into the spotlight.

Belfast Telegraph