Peace process threat as former prisoner shot dead
The murder of a father of nine in a suspected bloody feud between former IRA members was a "ruthless and premeditated" killing, a senior detective has said.
Ex-republican prisoner Kevin McGuigan (53) was gunned down at point-blank range in front of his wife Dolores by two masked men outside the couple's home in the republican Short Strand area of Belfast on Wednesday night.
Mr McGuigan was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of former IRA leader Gerard "Jock" Davison in the nearby Markets area of Belfast three months ago.
This has triggered widespread speculation the murder was a revenge attack carried out by Mr Davison's erstwhile associates in the IRA. If IRA involvement was proved there would be major implications for the peace process in Northern Ireland.
Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson has warned Sinn Féin it would face expulsion from the power-sharing Executive if the IRA was responsible. However, Sinn Féin has vehemently rejected the suggestion of IRA involvement.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector John McVea, has revealed Mr McGuigan was spoken to by detectives probing the Davison murder, but as a witness not a suspect.
However, he did not go so far as to rule him out as a suspect.
"I am saying the investigation team into the murder of Jock Davison would remain open minded as to who is responsible," he said.
The sisters of IRA murder victim, Robert McCartney, said they believe the Provisionals were responsible for killing Mr McGuigan, but doubt his killers will ever be brought to justice.
Catherine McCartney said: "In my opinion, the Provos were responsible and that is bad news for the McGuigan family because, in our family's experience, the PSNI take a kid-gloves approach to murders carried out by the IRA.
"Kevin McGuigan was killed just three months after Jock Davison. That stinks to high heaven. We will be watching what the police say and do very carefully over coming weeks.
"It seems unbelievable that the PSNI, and the intelligence services, did not know Kevin McGuigan's life was in serious risk and did not act to protect him."
Robert McCartney was stabbed to death by IRA members outside Magennis's bar in Belfast city centre in 2005. No-one has ever been convicted for his murder. Eyewitnesses said that his killers were acting on the orders of Jock Davison.
Mr McVea said it was too early to say if any paramilitary group was involved in the murder.
The IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997 and decommissioned its weapons in 2005.
It is understood Mr McGuigan had fallen out with former colleagues in the IRA a number of years ago. Between then and his murder he had also been shot in a paramilitary punishment-style attack.
Amid fears of an escalation of violence, Mr McVea called for "calm and restraint" within the community.
"This was a ruthless and premeditated killing carried out in front of Mr McGuigan's wife Dolores outside their home," he added.