Northern Ireland

Belfast: Priest says 25 people under paramilitary violence threats

Fr Gary Donegan at a vigil for murdered man Michael McGibbon, with the victim's widow Joanne Image copyright Press Eye
Image caption Fr Gary Donegan, pictured with the widow of Michael McGibbon, said 25 people had been threatened

A north Belfast priest has said he is aware of 25 people who have been threatened with paramilitary violence.

Father Gary Donegan said the threats were made against people accused by some individuals in their communities of "anti-social or criminal activity".

Two men have been shot dead in the city within the last month, while others have been injured in gun attacks.

"The people that perpetrate the crimes are coming out of the shadows to do these things," Fr Donegan said.

"And they disappear back in again."

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Murder victim Dan Murray had survived a previous gun attack in May 2015

On Monday night, takeaway deliver driver Dan Murray was murdered after being lured into a part of west Belfast by a bogus call, in what was a third shooting in the city in 24 hours.

Police have said it is too early to comment on a motive for the killing.

A post mortem examination is due to be carried out on Wednesday.

And last month, Michael McGibbon was killed in an alleyway shooting close to his north Belfast home.

Fr Donegan, of Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, said he had been aware of 15 threats in the last few days.

He added: "That's on top of nine previous ones, and there was a mother who came to me whose son was out of the area she came from for 10 weeks.

Image copyright Presseye
Image caption Mr Murray was shot in his car while working as a takeaway delivery driver

"The people [making the threats] are saying these people are involved in either alleged anti-social or criminal activity.

"We have, in a civilised society, a way of dealing with that.

"Nothing justifies [murder], no matter what people have been involved in.

"If your way of dealing with alleged anti-social or criminal activity is to shoot the problem away, it's a very strange way of dealing in a civilised society."

Fr Donegan called for those responsible for the threats to speak publicly.

"What I've been saying is: 'Put somebody forward - what exactly do you actually stand for?'"

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