Political tension as Shankill bomber held


The arrest of the Shankill bomber Sean Kelly after a so-called punishment shooting in which an 18-year-old man was seriously injured has triggered tension between First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr Kelly was arrested early on Wednesday after a teenager was shot in Ardoyne in north Belfast on Tuesday night. He was released “unconditionally” by the PSNI yesterday.

Family information provided to the police about the attack was withdrawn some time after Kelly’s arrest, it is understood.

The victim was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital and was on the critical list for a period with leg, stomach and pelvis wounds. One bullet also ripped through his bladder. He is off the critical list but still being treated in hospital.

Initially the PSNI portrayed the shooting as a “paramilitary-style” attack but it was then suggested the attack was motivated by animosity between the gunman and the victim, who has served a period in prison for rioting.

It is understood that it was decided to release Mr Kelly after details about the shooting given to police by the victim’s family were retracted. “What was provided to police is no longer on the table,” said one informed source. Police are again describing it as a “paramilitary-style” attack.

Mr Kelly carried out the 1993 bomb attack on Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road with fellow IRA member Thomas Begley. Ten people including Begley were killed in the blast while Kelly was removed badly injured from the rubble.

Mr Kelly was sentenced to life in prison but was released early in 2000 on licence under the terms of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.

The DUP MP for North Belfast Nigel Dodds said the Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers should consider revoking Kelly’s release licence and returning him to prison.

Licence revoked

In June 2005 Mr Kelly’s licence was revoked and he was sent back to prison by the then Northern secretary Peter Hain for allegedly being involved in disturbances in north Belfast.

Mr Hain had Mr Kelly released the following month in the face of republican protests. This was seen as part of the choreography whereby the IRA formally ended its campaign that same month and decommissioned its weapons in September.

 Mr Robinson warned that Mr Kelly’s arrest “raises potentially grave consequences” for the political process. “The family of the man who has been shot has indicated the involvement of those associated with Sinn Féin in this attack,” he said. Mr Robinson said the DUP wanted to meet the PSNI Chief Constable “to establish the background of this case”.

Mr McGuinness said: “The assertion that this shooting in north Belfast, which I unreservedly condemn, and the facts of which are at this stage under PSNI investigation and are unclear, should threaten the political process, is frankly ridiculous. The DUP should keep their nerve,” he said.