Terrorists still killing despite agreement

 

The murder of Gavin Brett in the mixed suburb of Glengormley on the northern outskirts of Belfast is the second murder by loyalists motivated by sectarianism in this area this year. In January another Protestant man, Trevor Lowry (49), was beaten to death by young Ulster Defence Association (UDA) members who mistook him for a Catholic.

The UDA has, in fact, been responsible for 12 murders since Easter 1998 when all the main political and paramilitary groups signed up to the Belfast Agreement.

The deal for the paramilitary, or terrorist, groups was that their prisoners were freed and they were granted immunity from prosecution for past deeds if they adhered to their ceasefires and agreed to decommission. None of the main paramilitary groups has kept to the terms set out in the Belfast Agreement. Police sources on both sides of the Border said all the groups had continued to recruit, train and carry out acts of violence, including murder.

Terrorist groups have carried out up to 90 murders in Northern Ireland and the Republic since the signing of the Belfast Agreement.

The worst single atrocity was the Omagh bombing on August 15th, 1998, when the "Real IRA" killed 29 people. No one has been convicted or charged with murder in relation to this incident, the worst single act of terrorist violence committed on the island during the 20th century.

The other republican groups, the Provisional IRA and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), also continued to commit murders after the agreement.

The IRA has killed 11 people in Northern Ireland and is suspected of shooting dead between six and 10 men in the Republic. The majority of the victims were figures suspected of involvement in drugs or other forms of crime. Although it appears to be widely accepted among the Garda and RUC that the IRA is involved in a campaign against certain criminal elements in the Republic and Northern Ireland there has been virtually no censure of the group either under the agreement or otherwise. The only action taken against a paramilitary group under the agreement was the re-imprisonment of the UDA figures, Johnny Adair and Gary Smith earlier this year.

The IRA has also killed people discerned as opponents with no criminal links. Its south Armagh members beat to death Eamon Collins, a former leading IRA figure who became one of its most a vocal opponents. It also beat to death Andrew Kearney (33) from north Belfast, after he had a dispute with the local IRA leader. Another man, Charles Bennett (22), was shot dead for allegedly passing information to the RUC. The IRA is also suspected of the sectarian murder of Trevor Kells (35) a Protestant taxi-driver in north Belfast. The IRA also shot dead the "Real IRA" figure Joseph O'Connor in west Belfast in October 2000.

The IRA is suspected of shooting dead between six and 10 people in the Republic since Easter 1998. The group remains one of the main suspects in the murder of the Dublin criminal, Seamus Hogan, last month.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) which, at one stage, made a token decommissioning gesture with some antiquated or unusable guns, has carried out up to 12 murders. More than half of these were sectarian. The group was also responsible for the murder of the Co Armagh solicitor, Rosemary Nelson.

The LVF also precipitated last year's loyalist feud when it murdered the prominent Co Armagh loyalist figure Richard Jameson after a fight in a local pub between members of the LVF and the larger Ulster Volunteer Force. The Ulster Defence Association (UDA) has been responsible for some 12 murders since the agreement was signed. About half of these could be described as sectarian and the other half resulted from the loyalist feud in which it became embroiled after some of its leaders sided with the LVF against the UVF.

The UDA is suspected of involvement in the murders of Mr Lowry and Mr Brett in Glengormley and of John McCormick (25), the Catholic man shot dead in Coleraine. The UDA and LVF are also heavily involved in a campaign of sectarian violence and intimidation involving attacks on Catholic homes using pipe bombs.

The other loyalist group, the UVF, remained quiet until the start of last year when the LVF killed Mr Jameson in Portadown. Local UVF figures retaliated, killing two young men, Andrew Robb and David McIlwaine.

The feud between the UVF on one side and elements of the LVF and UDA on the other, flared last summer. As a result of the feud the UVF reactivated much of its organisation and was responsible for six murders. The UVF was also behind the murder in Antrim last month of the Catholic man, Ciaran Cummings (19). He was blamed for the killing of a local UVF figure, Denver Smith.

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) is believed responsible for six murders, three in Northern Ireland and three in the Republic.