JIM CUSACK BELFAST'S Lord Mayor has called republicans - believed to belong to the INLA - "child abusers" after the kneecapping of a 14-year-old boy in the Catholic New Lodge area of the city early yesterday.
The youth was abducted from his home in the Fianna House flats and taken to an alleyway where he was shot through the leg. He is recovering in the Mater Hospital.
Belfast's SDLP Lord Mayor, Martin Morgan, attacked those responsible and said: "The community has to reject these people. They have reached a new level of depravity, a new level of sickness. They are nothing better than child abusers."
The kneecapping is the second attack on a teenager in Belfast in the past week. Last weekend a 17-year-old, Edward Gibson, was shot in both ankles by an IRA gang.
Both shootings coincide with the setting up of the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) to decide whether paramilitary groups affiliated to political parties in the North are adhering to conditions of their ceasefires.
FG front bench TD Michael Ring said he would not want to see Sinn Fein in government until the IRA is disbanded and so long as the group stood accused of making money from "criminality".
The Mayo TD said his remark on INN radio at the start of the week, that if Sinn Fein was fit to be in government in the North they should be fit to be in government in the South, was partly misconstrued. The remark was made in a long interview on his views on FG's future.
The gang, which local people said included at least one SF member, abducted Gibson from near his home in the Lower Falls area, drove him to a quiet street and shot him.
Gibson's father, Edward Taggart, was shot dead by the IRA in west Belfast before his son was born. He was shot in the spine in a type of punishment known to the terrorists as a "fifty-fifty job", apparently because there was 50-50 chance the victim would either die or be permanently paralysed. Taggart, who was 19 at the time and engaged to his unborn son's mother, was then shot in both ankles as he lay on the ground dying.
In the light of the continued IRA kneecappings and its involvement in organised crime, Mr Ring said he would "have no truck" with Sinn Fein. Reflecting on his radio interview, he said: "I did say I would have no problem going into government with Sinn Fein - provided they got rid of their military wing. I would have no truck with a Sinn Fein that has a private military wing." He added that he regularly spoke out against Sinn Fein and the IRA's involvement in criminality.
Mr Ring's remarks caused alarm in the party whose Justice spokesman, John Deasy, was quick to distance Fine Gael from any notion of a government alliance that would include Sinn Fein.
In his INN interview, Mr Ring said: "We cannot be saying to Sinn Fein: 'You're not fit to be in government in the south, but you are fit to be in government in the north.' But they have to once and for all declare that they're in the political system. If Sinn Fein continue to work the peace process and continue to work the democratic system in this country, I see no reason why they can't be in government."
The journalist, Tadgh Enwright, said Mr Ring had "certainly made the remarks" and felt he had been sending out "mixed messages". He agreed that the remarks about Sinn Fein being fit to govern in the Republic were "qualified".
Fianna Fail and the Progressive Democrats have already moved to distance themselves from Sinn Fein with the Taoiseach saying SF could not be part of government in the Republic so long as it supported a private army.
Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell has described SF as a "morally unclean" party and said that there was a "close connection" between Sinn Fein and the Provisional IRA.
Gerry Adams said Mr McDowell's remarks were "hysterical outbursts", and "characteristic of the more rabid conservative elements of the British political and military establishment over the last 30 years."