Saturday 21 April 2018

Dissident chief gunned down in broad daylight

PSNI officers at Springfield Road in West Belfast after dissident republican Tommy Crossan was shot dead. Photo: Kelvin Boyes
PSNI officers at Springfield Road in West Belfast after dissident republican Tommy Crossan was shot dead. Photo: Kelvin Boyes
Onlookers at the scene on Springfield Road after Tommy Crossan was shot dead.
Tommy Crossan

Michael McHugh

A 26-year-old man has been arrested after a prominent dissident republican was gunned down in broad daylight in West Belfast.

Tommy Crossan was shot dead in the grounds of an industrial complex, in full view of surrounding houses, a local representative said.

A priest attended to pray over the bloodied victim in an area long known as a republican heartland, but which has been relatively peaceful in recent years following the end of the IRA campaign in 1998.

Nationalist SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said: "We have long hoped that the shadow of death had been lifted from West Belfast. Today's event is a terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past."

DEVASTATED

Mr Crossan was reportedly the Continuity IRA's former leader and was believed to be the subject of a death threat from his former allies. The organisation has opposed the peace process which largely ended three decades of violence.

The attack happened at the Peter Pan Centre in Springfield Road, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

Family members arrived and were said to be devastated.

Mr Keenan said it was a horrific scene. CIRA was formed after splits in the Provisional IRA in 1986.

However, it was mainstream Sinn Fein and the IRA's decision to sign up to non-violence principles during all-party talks in the run-up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that prompted Mr Crossan to embrace dissident republicanism.

He told the 'Observer': "Bobby Sands (the IRA hunger striker) is one of my great heroes . . . I was 10 when he died, that's when I became interested in republicanism – but everything he fought for has been sold out.

"Prisoners like him died for political status, and now it's being taken away from republicans at a time Sinn Fein are doing something they vowed they would never do – sit in a Stormont government."

Mr Crossan served time in prison for conspiracy to murder Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers following a gun attack on a police station in West Belfast in 1998.

Sinn Fein Stormont Assembly member Jennifer McCann said those behind Mr Crossan's killing had no consideration for anyone in the community except themselves and their own criminal agenda.

"There is now a family in mourning and a community traumatised by this shooting.

"It will not go unnoticed that, with sadness, at Easter time as republicans gather to commemorate their patriot dead, that there are criminals on the streets masquerading as republicans for their own ends."

Press Association

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