IRA man murder: I called at Jock Davison’s door but he didn’t answer

Gerard Davidson, who was shot dead in the markets area of Belfast this morning
Gerard Davidson, who was shot dead in the markets area of Belfast this morning

A decade ago I knocked on the door of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in the Short Strand (where he then lived), and he was at home but declined to answer.

It was the morning of March 3 2005, in the aftermath of the IRA murder of Robert McCartney, and Mr Davison had given an interview to the then republican newspaper Daily Ireland in which he denied ordering the fatal attack.

Robert McCartney

Robert McCartney

I was a reporter for the Belfast Telegraph and my news editor suggested that I call round to see if Mr Davison would also speak to us.

It was less than an instruction: I think my editor would have understood if I had decided not to knock at the door of the reputed IRA commander in the republican area.

While I had little hesitation, I was happy to be accompanied by a large student journalist who was doing work experience (who had been given the option of not going, but who was keen to come along) and we were driven there by a photographer who waited while we went to the door.

We had been given a rough address, and arrived in a courtyard of houses that faced into each other.

I was about to knock on what I thought might be the right door when a middle-aged woman came out of a neighbouring house. She was smiling and had braces on her teeth and was walking straight to the house of the door we were about to knock.

I asked her if it was Mr Davison’s door and the smile drained from her face and she returned to her house. Moments later we could clearly hear the phone ringing in the house we were about to knock.

We saw Mr Davison, who was wearing a sling (having been injured the night of the attack), moving within the house.

A woman came to the door. I explained my mission and she politely said that he was unavailable to speak.

I seem to recall that the student beside me said afterwards that he could see Mr Davison in the reflection of a mirror standing at the back of the house, presumably listening as I talked at the door.

I also spoke to Jock Davison in 2002 during the Cluan Place riots (I did not know his face then, so while I had heard his name I did not realise it was him, assuming I was talking to another republican activist). I was in the Short Strand many times that troubled summer and autumn.