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Thursday 19 October 2017

Gardai prevent paramilitary show at bomb suspect funeral

A garda watches as a son of Seamus McKenna helps carry his remains into church in Co Louth
A garda watches as a son of Seamus McKenna helps carry his remains into church in Co Louth
Mourners carry a floral tribute past gardai
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

A MAJOR garda security operation prevented a paramilitary display at the funeral of Omagh bomb suspect Seamus McKenna.

A massive garda presence including officers in riot gear and mounted units as well as air support monitored the 250 mourners at the funeral in Ravensdale Co Louth.

There were tense moments as gardai and around 40 mourners in white shirts and black ties faced off in the cemetery.

Among those attending were fellow Omagh bomb suspects Seamus Daly and Colm Murphy.

But the funeral passed off peacefully, without the kind of paramilitary display with guns and combat fatigues seen at the 2012 funeral of Real IRA figure Alan Ryan.

McKenna died on Sunday after sustaining serious head injuries last week when he fell from scaffolding while carrying out repairs on a school near Dundalk.

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Police on both sides of the border suspect he was linked by a mobile phone to the Omagh atrocity that killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, in August 1998.

He was never charged in connection with the bombing, but he was sued by families of the victims.

Although McKenna was cleared by the judge, the families won their case against four others including Daly and Murphy, another man, Liam Campbell and Real IRA founder Michael McKevitt.

McKenna's body was brought by a hearse over the Border from his son's house in Silverbridge, south Armagh, to St Mary's Church in Ravensdale.

Gardai sealed off all roads leading into the village and mourners passed through two checkpoints, one manned by armed officers.

A garda helicopter hovered overhead and five officers on horseback patrolled nearby.

Fr Paul Montague acknowledged McKenna's involvement with republican extremism, saying: "Seamus lived through very difficult times which shaped his outlook on life.

"As we all know, he was a staunch republican who served two prison terms, firstly in Magilligan and then in Portlaoise."

The cortege left the church at noon with McKenna's sons, Sean and Gary, leading the pall-bearers.

Several mourners wore white shirts bearing the logo of extremist political organisation Republican Network for Unity, which opposes the peace process in the North.

Officers mingled with the crowd at the graveside, where one woman said to gardai: "We're asking you as a mark of respect to move back."

They remained there until the coffin was lowered into the ground and the mourners began to disperse.

There were tense moments as the group in white shirts lined up facing gardai over McKenna's grave before they turned in a military-style drill and marched out of the cemetery.

Irish Independent

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