Belfast victim went 15 minutes early to meet his killers

Fr Gary Donegan: “It was like watching that movie High Noon, the countdown to the showdown’

Michael McGibbon, the 33-year-old who was murdered in a suspected dissident so-called punishment shooting in north Belfast on Friday night, went to fulfil an appointment with the people who killed him, it has emerged.

Ardoyne-based priest Fr Gary Donegan said Mr McGibbon, a taxi driver, actually went to meet his killers 15 minutes earlier than the appointed time on Friday night, possibly because he believed he could persuade them he had done nothing wrong.

“He probably thought, ‘I can say to them, I am not guilty of anything, you have to believe me, I am totally innocent,’ but the poor soul did not get a chance,” said Fr Donegan last night.

The priest, from the Holy Cross church in Ardoyne, said: "If he had been involved in anything it would have come under my radar."


He spent time with Mr McGibbon’s wife, Joanne, and her four children aged three to 17 in recent days. He explained how Mr McGibbon and his family planned the day around the appointment with the suspected dissidents.


“It was like watching that movie

High Noon

, the countdown to the showdown . . . For them they were counting the day minute by minute. And God love him, it just got to him and he went 15 minutes early,” he said.

Fr Donegan said the family had chicken nuggets and sausages for their tea. “They did everything they could for their children. He helped put them to bed, which he normally didn’t do, and said goodbye to his wife and went to the appointment early in the hope that maybe he could dissuade them from doing him harm.”

The suspected local dissidents first approached Mr McGibbon on Thursday night but he did not go with them. He contacted the PSNI about this incident but, according to Fr Donegan, he then seemed to have second thoughts about going to the police.

“He thought, ‘This is going to impinge on my life, I am from a working class background, it is not as if I can up and suddenly leave here,’” said Fr Donegan.

The priest said he had also heard that Mr McGibbon was reassured on Friday by somebody with dissident connections that “nothing would happen to him”.

‘Main artery’

“But what they did was they shot him several times and hit a main artery. His wife attempted to stem the bleeding. She literally watched his blood run down the alleyway.”

He explained how Joanne McGibbon arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting and tried to help her husband.

“He raised his hand and called for his mother, and called for her [Joanne McGibbon].”

Fr Donegan said he lost consciousness and she tried to resuscitate him. Mr McGibbon, who was not known to police, died later in hospital.

A well-known north Belfast dissident republican, who was questioned by police about the murder, was released unconditionally yesterday evening.

First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, in a joint statement, said: "The perpetrators of this attack have shown complete contempt for the local community and are trying to bring intimidation and fear on to the streets of north Belfast. We reject their agenda and actions and urge anyone with any information to bring it to the PSNI."

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty

Gerry Moriarty is the former Northern editor of The Irish Times