The Irish News is reporting late tonight that the dead man has been named locally as Kevin McGuigan. The victim has the same name as the figure accused by the IRA of killing Jock Davison.
The Irish Times does not have the McGuigan killing on the front page of its internet edition as of 8.26 pm, EDT, 1.26 am GMT. A story inside is by the Press Association, not a staffer. This used to be a newspaper. The BBC NI webpage leads with the incident but has no details about the victim. At least they recognise it is an important story.
Initial reports from Belfast are speculating that the 50-year old man shot dead in the Catholic Short Strand area of Belfast last night might have been the figure blamed by the IRA for the gunning to death of one of their leading members, Jock Davison in early May this year.
Davison, a prominent IRA figure in the city, was shot dead in clinical fashion from behind as he walked to work in the Markets area of Belfast. Davison was a leading suspect in the stabbing murder of Robert McCartney whose savage killing in 2005 caused a crisis in the peace process for the Provos, especially in their dealings with a Bush administration in Washington already furious about the Northern Bank robbery; the White House withdrew a funding visa from Gerry Adams in retaliation.
Davison’s funeral was attended by many leading IRA figures, including the organisation’s chief of intelligence, Bobby Storey, an indication of the respect he was held in by the Provo hierarchy.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the Short Strand killing but if the IRA is suspected, and the victim does turn out to be the alleged killer of Davison, there will be an inevitable political controversy over the continued existence and capability of the IRA, notwithstanding the peace process and supposed decommissioning of IRA weapons.
In the past when the IRA wished to disguise its part in violence it used cover names, notably Direct Action Against Drugs. In the past week a group calling itself ‘Action Against Drugs’ emerged in the columns of The Irish News, threatening alleged drug dealers.
The figure accused of killing Davison has himself been labelled a drug-dealer,which may mean only that he has offended the group, or its sponsors, in other ways.
Whatever the truth about last night’s killing the incident shows that violence is never far from the surface in Northern Ireland, peace process or no peace process.