VIDEO: IRA commander’s funeral takes place in Belfast

Large crowds have turned out to mark the death of a former commander of the IRA in Belfast.

The Markets area towards the southern edge of the city centre saw flocks of mourners throng the streets from the morning in to the early afternoon.

The funeral of Gerard 'Jock' Davison as it leaves his family home in the Markets area of south Belfast

The funeral of Gerard 'Jock' Davison as it leaves his family home in the Markets area of south Belfast

A funeral procession set off through the neighbourhood, later than planned, led by a bagpiper and a hearse bearing the words ‘Granda’ in white and green flowers.

A short memorial service was held by his family near where he had been gunned down on Tuesday.

The hearse also bore flowers in the colours of the Irish tricolour on its roof, and the flag itself was draped over his coffin, as well as a black beret and gloves.

Bomber-turned-MLA Gerry Kelly was among those present.

Gerry Kelly in the Markets

Gerry Kelly in the Markets

A man, aged 38, had been arrested in connection with the killing, but then released unconditionally on Friday.

Two other men – 41 and 27 – had previously been arrested and then released.

Police had no estimate for the scale of the turnout at the Saturday event, but the News Letter estimates that it must have numbered in to the thousands.

Co-incidentally, the funeral was happening at the same time as a massive loyalist parade only about 500 metres away, and the thump and crackle of drums could be heard from the edge of the Markets.

Gerard 'Jock' Davison

Gerard 'Jock' Davison

When the News Letter turned up to the Markets at around 11am, mourners were beginning to gather around Mr Davison’s former home in Friendly Street.

There was an increased police presence in the surrounding area, but not on the residential streets themselves.

The Markets area is made up of a network of tightly-packed terraces, and is solidly republican; the entrance to the neighbourhood bears faded INLA graffiti, and a sticker warning police they were not welcome.

The streets were packed with parked cars, and there were two coaches which had bussed attendees to the area.

The funeral has taken place of former senior IRA figure Gerard 'Jock' Davison

The funeral has taken place of former senior IRA figure Gerard 'Jock' Davison

Some of those gathered in the neighbourhood sported suits and ties, others tracksuits and casualwear. Few wanted to say anything.

One man said: “[Get] away on up there, mate”, indicating that this reporter should go back the way he came, when asked if they had anything he wished to say about Mr Davison.

Another waved his hands and said: “You’ve got a cheek!” when asked the same thing.

In all, roughly 20 -or-so residents or funeral attendees were approached, but to little avail.

However, aged around his 40s and with short cropped hair, said simply: “He was a gentleman. That’s all you can say.”

A blonde-haired woman, accompanied by two others and a child, was also asked if she wished to say anything about him.

“Only that he was a legend,” she replied.

Some individuals left messages online however.

Sinn Fein activist Eoin McShane (@eoinmcshanesf) wrote: “Massive turnout today for our big friend Jock Davison murdered by thugs. Overwhelming show of solidarity for the Davison family. RIP”.

A poster called Tra Gearr (@TraGearrFear) said: “Massive turnout in the Markets today for the funeral of Jock Davison, a clear single [sic] to the criminals, we reject you and your gangsterism.”

After the gathering in the Markets, the mourners dispersed and the hearse headed west, followed by a grey limousine.

It is understood that Mr Davison was an atheist, and that his body was being conveyed straight to Milltown cemetery in west Belfast.

Mr Davison had been linked to the murder of Robert McCartney in 2005. He was never convicted of wrongdoing in relation to his death.

He was allegedly involved in the fight which led to Mr McCartney’s death outside a nearby pub, and was among three IRA members expelled from the organisation following a subsequent internal investigation.

Following Mr Davison’s shooting, relatives of Mr McCartney were quoted as saying their campaign for justice was “effectively over”.

In a letter, published online by Republican News on Saturday and said to be from 60 community activists or groups, condemned what it “a barrage of speculative innuendo, including unsubstantiated and baseless allegations” in the wake of his death.