Ardoyne priest Father Gary Donegan has praised the ‘generosity’ shown by Orangemen at Twaddell protest camp after they decided to withdraw their nightly protest - which was to be held as a vigil for murdered taxi driver Michael McGibbon was taking place.
Hundreds turned out for an emotionally charged vigil for the murdered father-of-four at Holy Cross Church.
The funeral for 33-year-old Mr McGibbon - who was shot three times in the leg after being ordered to meet the gunmen responsible for his death in an alleyway at Butler Place in Ardoyne on Friday night - will be held tomorrow in Holy Cross Church at 10am.
Holy Cross parish priest Father Donegan said: “The numbers who attended the vigil were quite phenomenal. There were hundreds of people there from all walks of life.
“There were ministers there from other churches, politicians, historians from Queen’s university, the ordinary 5-8 who are the heart and soul of Ardoyne and people who would not know how to find a church unless they were following a hearse.
“It was a heart rending and incredible experience for everyone who was involved in it.”
During the vigil Joanne McGibbon was applauded as she said the Ardoyne community must “stay strong and stick together”.
The north Belfast cleric told of his admiration for Orange Lodges who decided to withdraw their protest because of the McGibbon family vigil.
“I got a call yesterday from a couple of leading loyalists to say that the protest was going to be suspended,” said Fr Donegan.
“We have had over 1000 nights in Twaddell and that was the first time.
I was able to make an announcement and acknowledge the generosity of the lodges in the church and it got a very positive response
“We also had a big mission in the church and I was able to make an announcement and acknowledge the generosity of the lodges in the church and it got a very positive response.”
PUP Leader Billy Hutchinson welcomed the move by the local Ligoniel Lodges to withdraw their protest as a mark of respect for murder victim Michael McGibbon.
“This was a terrible and cowardly murder, and my thoughts and sincerest condolences go out to the family of Michael McGibbon,” he said.
“I very much welcome the efforts by the local Ligoniel Brethren to withdraw their protest this evening as the memorial service is conducted and as a mark of respect to the victim’s family. I would like to thank all those who have been involved in efforts to bring about this gesture.”