The sight of masked men flanking the coffin of INLA child killer Martin McElkerney will have caused further hurt and trauma to the terrorist organisation’s victims, it has been claimed.
A large number of men wearing masks and berets took part in the funeral procession outside St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast.
McElkerney, who was jailed for life in 1987 for the murders of a British soldier and two local schoolboys in a botched bomb attack, died in the Royal Victoria Hospital last week after sustaining head injuries in a shooting incident at Milltown Cemetery.
Police said they are not seeking anyone else in connection with the shooting.
Delivering the homily at the Requiem Mass, Fr Gary Donegan said: “There are tragedies in life that we can do nothing about. Martin’s death is such a tragedy.
“We are meant to bury our parents. In cases like Martin, the natural order is turned on its head ...”
McElkerney, 57, served just 12 years for his part in the murders of 11-year-old Kevin Valliday, Stephen Bennett, 14, and 20-year-old Kevin Waller.
Fr Donegan added: “Following his release from prison, Martin became aware that the choices he made in life had significant and lasting consequences for others, including his family.”
Condemning the paramilitary display at the funeral, victims’ campaigner Kenny Donaldson said: “Such public displays are deeply hurtful to innocent victims and survivors of terrorism. They act as a further means of psychological torture. It is an indictment on this society that such behaviour is still able to take place with immunity from prosecution all but guaranteed.”
Mr Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, added: “All of us need to ask ourselves the question: is this Northern Ireland that we live in really good enough? Is this what we’re to accept? For innocent victims and survivors of terrorism, there is no get out of jail free for them – their pain is a full life sentence.”
DUP justice spokesperson Emma Little-Pengelly MP commented: “These types of displays have no place in Northern Ireland. It shows a complete disrespect for victims. Those who suffered most during the Troubles deserve respect. These displays glorify terrorism, celebrate paramilitarism and further hurt victims. It needs to stop. All should unreservedly condemn such displays.”
Former soldier and UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie MC MLA added: “It was men dressed in masks and sunglasses and balaclavas like we saw on display today who destroyed people’s lives, butchered their loved ones, so absolutely this sort of thing traumatises victims again and again and again.
“I think the police need to stamp this sort of thing out and they need to stamp it out now, because the longer it is allowed to go on as if it is normal behaviour that is exactly what it will turn into, normal behaviour.”
Among those who attended McElkerney’s funeral were Sinn Fein MLAs Gerry Kelly and Carál Ní Chuilín.
Mrs Little-Pengelly and Mr Beattie said both politicians should explain their decision to attend the funeral.
“Gerry Kelly MLA was attending the funeral of his brother-in-law, Martin McElkerney,” a Sinn Fein spokesperson said.
“Other Sinn Féin members were at the funeral to pay their respects to life-long friends in the McElkerney family.”
On Monday shots were fired during a paramilitary-style display outside McElkerney’s west Belfast home.
Several masked gunmen fired a volley of shots into the air as another stood holding a photograph of the INLA killer.
Child killer served just 12 years
Martin McElkerney was jailed in 1987 for his part in a botched bomb attack five years previously which claimed the lives of a British soldier and two local schoolboys.
He was given three life sentences for his role in the murders of 11-year-old Kevin Valliday, his friend Stephen Bennett, 14, and 20-year-old Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller.
McElkerney was identified in court as the look-out for the INLA bomber who planted the deadly device at the Divis Flats complex in west Belfast in September 1982. Following the INLA’s declaration of a ceasefire in 1999, McElkerney was among the first of the terrorist organisation’s prisoners to be released under the terms of the Belfast Agreement.
In February 2010 he was part of a group of former INLA prisoners who held a press conference announcing that the paramilitary group had disposed of its weapons.
The INLA were responsible for around 120 murders during The Troubles.