Call for council review after publicly-funded groups praise IRA man

Gerard Davidson, who was shot dead in the Markets area of Belfast
Gerard Davidson, who was shot dead in the Markets area of Belfast

Belfast City Council is to be asked to investigate after 63 community groups in the city took out a full-page advert to praise a dead IRA man.

Their joint statement appeared on page 24 of Saturday’s Irish News, as well as online by Irish Republican News.

It describes recently murdered IRA commender Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison as someone who “put life and liberty at risk to defend his community”.

Mr Davison’s funeral on Saturday drew a vast crowd to the streets of the republican Markets district where he lived.

Some of the groups receive funding through the council, and long-serving UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said that his party group will now call for a probe to see if any of them have breached any rules.

When asked if his party will raise the issue with the council, he said: “We will, to keep ourselves right with the people we represent; to see if they’ve broken the council’s criteria.”

He said they will ask the council’s chief executive to launch the review, adding: “We’ll have to examine, we will have to ascertain, whether or not any of the monies that these groups have received from the council has been used to pay for this advertisment.”

Among the groups whose names appear on the statement are the West Belfast Festival (funded by the council) and Tar Isteach (also funded by the council).

Councillor Rodgers said he could not be sure precisely how many are in receipt of funding, because this can change periodically.