Killing of Catholic on way to work condemned

The Irish Times—05 July 2001


By Suzanne Breen, in Belfast

Nationalists have been warned to be vigilant following the killing of a Catholic man in Antrim. Sinn Féin and the SDLP have said the murder was sectarian. There was growing concern last night of further attacks as tension mounts in advance of Sunday when loyalists will gather at Drumcree after the Orange Order was banned from marching down the Garvaghy Road.

Mr Ciaran Cummings (19) was shot dead at the Greystone roundabout on the outskirts of Antrim town while he was waiting for a lift to work yesterday. There has been widespread condemnation of the killing.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Cowen, appealed for all sides to remain calm and for political and community leaders to redouble their efforts to work for an end to such attacks.

He condemned the "vicious and cowardly murder" of Mr Cummings which, he said, bore all the hallmarks of a sectarian attack. The killers had no political mandate and sought a return to "the failed politics of the past", he added.

The British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, condemned the murder as "a tragic and terrible event". The Northern Secretary, Dr John Reid, said it should act as a "spur" in the peace process. "We want to put all paramilitary weapons beyond use, rep ub lican and loyalist. I hope this acts as a spur to all of us to see that this is achieved." The shooting took place at 7.15 a.m. when Mr Cummings was on his way to work at an engineering firm in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim.

He was approached by two men on a motorcycle. The pillion passenger opened fire, hitting him at least twice. He died by the roadside. His assailants sped off in the direction of the M2 motorway. Other workers who were also waiting for lifts witnessed the killing. It is understood he had been recently threatened by the Loyalist Volunteer Force.

A caller claiming to represent the Red Hand Defenders told a Belfast newsroom that it was responsible. He said the killing was a response to the election of two Sinn Féin members to the local council last month. A code word was used.

However, there is confusion in loyalist circles as to which group was responsible. Some sources believe the Loyalist Volunteer Force, which is active in the area, was involved. Others are blaming dissident UDA members.

Mr Cummings lived in the Greystone Estate which is religiously mixed. A friend of the family, Ms Mary Matthews, said: "They are devastated. They just cannot take it in. Ciaran was a normal 19-yearold with plenty of friends from both sides of the community. I don't know why anyone would want to kill him."

Sinn Féin councillor Mr Martin McManus said: "This was a sectarian murder, this young man has lost his life because of the silly Drumcree parade which is causing division in this country." SDLP Assembly member Mr Donovan McClelland said Mr Cummings was shot dead because he was a Catholic and a soft target. "The attack bears all the hallmarks of a well planned and highly organised killing and constitutes a very worrying development in this area." RUC Assistant Chief Constable Alan McQuillan said the RUC wasn't ruling out a sectarian motive. "This was a very professional, well organised, well-planned shooting. It was not random. They knew who they were going for."

He said the attack appeared to have been the work of paramilitaries. Mr Ken Wilkinson of the Progressive Unionist Party, the UVF's political wing, also condemned the killing. "I spoke to the victim's father and he was distraught. Some people will be sitting thinking they are heroes. They are anything but that." Local Ulster Unionist Assembly member Mr Jim Wilson said it was a "despicable act" which "would only serve to heighten tensions at what is an already difficult time". Alliance Assembly member Mr David Ford ac cused loyalist paramilitaries of trying to return the North to "the dark days" of the 1970s.

Mr Ciaran Cummings (19), shot dead yesterday


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