Masked men fire shots at republican funeral

Young school children can be seen standing next to the masked gunmen as they fire a volley of shots into the air at the funeral of Barry McMullan
Young school children can be seen standing next to the masked gunmen as they fire a volley of shots into the air at the funeral of Barry McMullan

Video footage has shown masked men firing shots during the funeral of a West Belfast republican.

Police have launched an investigation after a video of the incident emerged on social media.

Barry McMullan, who is understood to have been a senior figure in the Irish republican Socialist Party (IRSP) – the political wing of the INLA – was buried in Belfast on Monday.

A video of the funeral appeared on Belfast IRSP Facebook page on Tuesday, showing mourners and a republican band gathered outside his west Belfast home, where the coffin was put on display in the street.

It was draped with a Starry Plough flag and a number of men wearing paramilitary style uniforms could be seen at the funeral.

As the funeral cortege made its way along Whiterock Road towards Milltown Cemetery, the video captures two masked men dressed in black paramilitary garb with dark sunglasses and berets, firing off a volley of handgun shots into the air.

Two young children dressed in their school uniforms were standing next to the masked gunmen when the shots rang out. It is not clear if the bullets were live rounds or blanks.

Cheers rang out from the large crowd after the hail of shots were fired and a chorus of car horns honked in approval.

Belfast IRSP described Mr McMullan, known as Baz, as a ‘much loved comrade’ on social media.

Images on social media show Starry Ploughs, the flag most associated with the Irish socialist republican movement, being flown in the New Barnsley area ahead of the funeral.

The PSNI said an investigation into the matter is now under way.

Detective Chief Inspector Gary Reid said: “Police are aware of footage showing shots apparently being fired by masked men in West Belfast in recent days.”

TUV leader Jim Allister said those responsible should be prosecuted.

He added: “We supposedly have a peace process and the INLA claimed to have decommissioned their weapons seven years ago. Yet here we have a paramilitary show of strength and shots fired over a coffin.

“Decommissioning has once again been shown to be a sham.

“One of the troubling questions which this video raises is; where were the PSNI? The apparent blind eye approach to republican shows of strength such as this is totally unacceptable and needs to stop.”

Condemning the incident, SDLP Councillor Tim Attwood said gunmen have “no place on the streets of Belfast”.

He added: “In a built-up area, with so many bystanders this could easily end in tragedy.”

Alliance Party Justice spokesperson Trevor Lunn said the appearance of masked men firing shots over the coffin was “deeply sinister”.

He added: “This incident demonstrates the need for a robust strategy to tackle paramilitarism, which the last Executive failed to produce.

“If anyone has any information about this event, I would urge them to contact police.”