Hundreds Attend Funeral Of Ex-IRA Gunman Kevin McGuigan

More than 1,000 mourners turned out for the funeral of a former IRA gunman who was shot last week, as police continued to question three men arrested on suspicion of his murder.

Kevin McGuigan was killed at his home in the nationalist Short Strand district of east Belfast last Wednesday night. His family have blamed former comrades in the IRA.

There was a heavy police presence at the funeral and at one stage officers had to hold back a small crowd of jeering loyalists on the Newtownards Road who were taunting mourners as the cortege made its way towards St Matthews Catholic church.

Kevin McGuigan with his grandson Ollie in hospital in 2011. Kevin McGuigan with his grandson Ollie in hospital in 2011. Photograph: Family/PSNI/PA

Inside the church, the parish priest Fr John Nevin warned against violence and revenge.

“The only thing that all of us can take from this terrible tragedy and from today’s funeral mass is that violence does not solve problems,” he said in his homily. “Violence and war and revenge do not solve problems, but create more – the circle goes on.”

Among those who walked behind the coffin, which was draped in an Irish Tricolour flag, was the former Sinn Féin lord mayor of Belfast Niall O Donnghaile. His party has denied the claims of the McGuigan family and a number of republican sources that members of the mainstream IRA were responsible for the killing.

Wreaths spelling out the words “Husband”, “Uncle”, “Daddy”, “Brother” and “Son” were put into the hearse that drove McGuigan’s body to the City Cemetery in West Belfast for burial. Police were stationed in several armoured Land Rovers when the funeral cortege arrived at the cemetery, and a PSNI helicopter hovered in the sky above.

Earlier on Tuesday three men aged 53, 44 and 41 were arrested at different locations in Belfast on suspicion of murder. During searches in the Short Strand area, police took away a washing machine and other materials from a house.

Sources in Belfast have told the Guardian that one of the weapons used in the killing may have come from a batch of guns smuggled into the country from Florida by the IRA during the peace process in 1999 to defend itself from attacks.

McGuigan, who was 53, had been accused by ex-comrades of killing a former Belfast IRA commander, Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, in the Market area of central Belfast in May. Through his solicitor McGuigan had denied involvement in the Davison murder.

Victims campaigners including Catherine McCartney, a former neighbour of McGuigan whose brother Robert was killed by IRA members outside a Belfast pub a decade ago, have called for the inquiry into McGuigan’s killing to be taken out of the PSNI’s hands as they allege the force is more concerned with protecting the political process at Stormont than solving paramilitary murders. The PSNI has rejected the claims.

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