Belfast Telegraph

Kevin McGuigan murder: Word on street says it was the IRA... but Chief Constable Hamilton needs proof

By Brian Rowan

Sean Kelly's arrest as part of the Kevin McGuigan murder investigation was always going to lead to dramatic front page headlines.

It was also going to add to the suggestion and suspicion of IRA involvement in this killing.

But after being arrested at his home on Tuesday morning, Kelly was released last night.

His name will forever be identified with the slaughter of the IRA bomb on the Shankill Road in 1993.

The breaking news on Tuesday night that he was being held by police brought his name back into the headlines. It also brought the IRA into sharper focus.

Kelly is not identified with any of the dissident organisations. He has remained part of the republican mainstream.

So, what next?

After a series of arrests and much speculation, attention will now turn to the PSNI assessment. Who do the police believe killed Kevin McGuigan and is there an IRA link?

Many people have already made their minds up. They believe the McGuigan murder was the IRA settling a score after the killing of 'Jock' Davison - a one-time senior IRA leader in Belfast - and that in this case two and two makes four.

For Chief Constable George Hamilton and other senior officers the assessment process is not that simple or straightforward.

There is still much working out to be done. What does the evidence suggest? And, after the McGuigan murder, what is the intelligence picture showing or suggesting?

Are there any clues in the weapons used and in the nature of the shooting? How do police and MI5 now assess the IRA organisation? Is there still a structure and a leadership?

If, as one republican recently suggested, "ex-volunteers" may have been involved, what does "ex" mean? Is there any suggestion that republican leaders sanctioned or acquiesced in what happened?

Can a connection be made that labels this an IRA killing? Are there other possibilities?

There are many questions that need answers, answers that will need to stand up to the closest scrutiny and examination.

And political ears are listening out for the police to make their call.

This is "slower time stuff", one source told this newspaper.

"Our priority is to investigate a murder."

But this is a murder that could play into the politics at Stormont -particularly if any IRA link is established. First Minister Peter Robinson has already said there would be "repercussions".

But a republican dismissed the suggestion of any IRA involvement saying it was "SFA (sweet f*** all) to do with us".

After the news of Kelly's release, he described the arrests as a "trawling exercise". Others will still believe that the IRA was involved. That view has taken root.

It is still not clear when the PSNI will speak to give its assessment. After the developments of recent days, pressure will build for that thinking to be shared.

Politicians are waiting and fingers are still being pointed at the IRA.

Belfast Telegraph


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