Punishment shootings blocking road to peace, mourners told at victim’s funeral

Paramilitary “punishment shootings” such as the one that killed a Belfast father-of-four are blocking the road to peace in Northern Ireland, mourners at his funeral were told.

No-one has the right to act as “judge, jury and executioner” in a civilised society, a parish priest told the hundreds who gathered to say farewell to Michael McGibbon.

Joanne McGibbon (wife) with her children during the funeral of Michael McGibbon at Holy Cross Church in the Ardoyne area of  North Belfast

Joanne McGibbon (wife) with her children during the funeral of Michael McGibbon at Holy Cross Church in the Ardoyne area of North Belfast

Taxi driver Mr McGibbon, 33, was shot three times in the legs in an alleyway in the nationalist Ardoyne area of north Belfast on Friday night - 24 hours after two men came to his house to threaten him.

It is understood he went to the alleyway having been order to attend. Dissident republicans have been blamed.

The former chef was shot yards from his home, close to Holy Cross church where more than 800 attended his requiem mass on Thursday.

Father Eugene McCarthy described Mr McGibbon as a “good family man” who always put others before himself.

“We are very aware that Michael’s young life ended abruptly as a result of a so-called punishment shooting in an alleyway near his home in the shadow of this historic church,” he said.

Ahead of the service Mr McGibbon’s widow Joanne and her four children - Seana, Shea, Michaela and Corry Leigh - knelt by his coffin before it was carried into the church.

Mrs McGibbon, a nurse, rushed to her husband in the alleyway after the attack and held him as he bled to death.

Inside the church, Fr McCarthy praised the dignity with which the family had borne their loss.

“I want to assure them that the vast majority of people here in Ardoyne and beyond this parish are with them, standing strong with them against those who live in the shadows and emerge from the shadows to perpetrate foul deeds which deprived a wife of her husband, children of their daddy, a father of his son and siblings of a brother,” he said.

The priest said Mr McGibbon had experienced problems in life.

“Michael by his own admission wasn’t perfect, he had struggles in life,” he said.

“But let’s put it very clearly - he didn’t deserve to die in the manner that all of that happened to him.”

He added: “No human being has the right to act as judge, jury and executioner and thus deprive another human being of his God-given life.”

Fr McCarthy said the scourge of paramilitary attacks had to end and those responsible for the “violence and mayhem” must see the error of their ways.

“The death of Michael McGibbon marks another block on the road to lasting peace and reconciliation,” he said.

“Thank God for the peace we have, but remember it’s very fragile and needs to be nurtured.”