Belfast Telegraph

Gerard 'Jock' Davison: Well regarded in republicanism... but someone wanted him dead

By Brian Rowan

Picture the tight-knit streets of the Markets community, a stone's throw from the heart of the city centre, and how busy they would have been yesterday morning as people went to work and kids made their way to school.

And, then, in the middle of this routine morning melee, the crack of gunfire.

The sound of those shots had hardly faded before details of yesterday's killing started to spread across social media. The name of the man gunned down, Gerard 'Jock' Davison, would have added significantly to the speed of that travelling news.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly described him as "a long-standing republican activist and community worker" and called the murder "an attack on the whole community".

Davison was once one of the most senior IRA figures in Belfast. He came from a republican family and would have been particularly well-known in the Markets, Lower Ormeau and Short Strand.

I heard his name mentioned for the first time in the period before the IRA's ceasefire, when security sources talked of his seniority and significance within the Provos.

Years later his name emerged again, this time in the fallout from the Robert McCartney murder in 2005. Mr McCartney was stabbed close to a city centre pub after a fight had started inside. His sisters subsequently became involved in a very public campaign for justice - proper justice through the proper channels. The IRA, however, had other ideas. They threatened to shoot those "directly involved" in the killing and said they had dismissed three of their members, two of them "high-ranking".

Davison was one of those two.

There was no suggestion of him being involved in the stabbing of Mr McCartney, but he had been involved in an earlier row in the pub and ended up in hospital. Now he is dead, shot on the street on his way to work at a community project in the Markets.

But shot by whom?

There was a time when Davison would have been more alert, more vigilant and watching for danger. But that was when he was at the top of the IRA in Belfast, when he would have known he was a target, particularly in the pre-ceasefire period, not in 2015.

That instinct of needing to be alert will have long since gone.

Davison was not linked to the dissident republican world. Statements and comments and tweets from senior Sinn Fein leaders yesterday sent out a clear message that Davison was still someone who was "well regarded".

So, on the face of it, there appears no reason why republicans - dissident or mainstream - would have wanted him dead.

But somebody did.

Within hours speculation, theories and even names were being aired. But there is nothing yet from the police about a motive.

Meanwhile, there are still guns out there, people prepared to use them and, even this far into a post-conflict process, there are those who are not safe.

Read more:

Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Police plea with residents to engage with detectives 

Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Residents' shock as gunfire returns to Belfast's streets  

Gerard 'Jock' Davison: Stuck in the shadow of the Robert McCartney killing, but never far from senior republicans 

Markets murder: Former IRA chief gunned down as a child cried out 'daddy, daddy' 

Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Politicians voice their horror at shooting 

Gerard 'Jock' Davison murder: Belfast shooting of ex-IRA man 'not sectarian' 

Former IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison shot dead in south Belfast 

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