A former IRA commander investigated for a murder which shook the Northern Ireland peace process has been shot dead in Belfast.
Gerard “Jock” Davison was gunned down today in the republican Markets area near the city centre. He was fatally wounded on Welsh Street at around 9am, police said.
Mr Davison was allegedly involved in the fight that led to the death of Belfast man Robert McCartney in January 2005 and was among three IRA members expelled following an internal investigation in the wake of the death. He was questioned by police but released without charge.
Sinn Fein South Belfast Stormont assembly member Alex Maskey said: “What we have had here today is a very brutal killing of a local man.
“He is a very well-known person in this area. His family are well-known and he is very well-regarded in this area as a long-standing republican.”
A large cordon has been put up around the scene and a police forensic tent has been erected over the victim’s body.
Small groups of local people and a number of high-profile Belfast republicans stood at the police line watching scenes-of-crime officers in white forensic suits who spent most of the morning carrying out detailed examinations of the area in driving rain.
Most people were reluctant to speak about the shooting but have expressed shock.
Mr McCartney’s sisters led a long-running battle for justice for the killing of their brother, following a bar argument, which took them to the White House.
The killing happened at a time when Sinn Fein was under pressure to accept the rule of law in Northern Ireland. Its decision to support the police two years later led to the formation of a ministerial executive at Stormont and the sharing of power between republicans and the DUP.
Mr Davison’s uncle, Terence Davison, was later acquitted of Mr McCartney’s killing.
The dead man was also quizzed by detectives investigating the murder at Magennis’s bar but was released without charge.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said: “This is a horrendous crime and those responsible have shown no regard for anyone that could have been caught in the middle of it during the school rush hour. Witnesses have described how the man was shot in the street.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the individual’s family at this traumatic time. People here want to move on from the violence of the past. This community will reject those who bring murder and mayhem to our streets. I would appeal to anyone with any information to bring it forward as soon as possible.”
A police statement said: “PSNI can confirm that a man has been shot dead in Welsh Street in south Belfast.”
It is understood the victim, a father of three, was making his way to a community centre where he worked when he was attacked.
Mr Maskey added: “I am not blaming anybody. I am not getting into any sort of speculation but quite clearly the people who killed this man this morning have robbed the community of a valuable worker and robbed a family of a loving family member. Clearly they have nothing to offer.”
David Ford, justice minister in the devolved power-sharing assembly at Stormont, condemned the killing of the community worker on the eve of the General Election.
“There can be no excuse, explanation or rational reason why another family should be made to suffer through the taking of a life. Those who carried out this heinous crime have no place in our community.”