By Rebecca Black, PA
A claim by a former PSNI chief constable that police suspected senior republicans had known about and “concurred” with a murder in 2015 “raises profound and troubling questions”, according to TUV leader Jim Allister.
Former IRA commander Gerard “Jock” Davison was shot dead in the Markets area of Belfast in May 2015.
Three months later ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan was murdered in a gun attack in nearby Short Strand, prompting a political crisis at Stormont.
A series of DUP ministers resigned in protest at the IRA’s alleged involvement in the shooting.
Former chief constable George Hamilton has said in a new book that within a short period of time, detectives were pursuing a “strong line of inquiry that McGuigan had been murdered by members of the IRA”.
He said that as the investigation developed, “it became clear that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that this was with the knowledge and concurrence of senior figures within the republican movement”.
Mr Hamilton made his comments in the new book, Political Purgatory: The Battle To Save Stormont And The Play For A New Ireland, by journalist Brian Rowan.
The ex-chief constable said at the time of the murder that while some of the IRA’s members were involved. there was “no evidence at this stage” that the killing was sanctioned by the organisation.
He also referred to the challenges of leading the PSNI between 2014-19 in the new book.
“For my part it was uncomfortable, but transition out of conflict right across the world is never straightforward,” he said.
“There is often a feeling of one step forward and two back.
“The murder of McGuigan was several steps back in the peace process and of course police actions and commentary were under considerable scrutiny, with some suggestion, rather ironically, that it was police rather than those who had murdered Kevin McGuigan who were putting the peace and political progress in jeopardy.
“I was a police officer and legally obliged to go where the evidence took the investigation and to maintain the integrity of the police under the rule of law.
“Those sorts of dilemmas are not unique to policing in Northern Ireland, but they are much more prevalent and magnified.”
In recent weeks, the PSNI has come under fresh fire from politicians, with DUP leader Arlene Foster calling for Chief Constable Simon Byrne’s resignation after no prosecutions were pursued by the Public Prosecution Service of several Sinn Fein members for alleged coronavirus regulation breaches at the funeral of Bobby Storey last year.
Mr Allister said the latest comments from Mr Hamilton “raise profound and troubling questions for policing and justice in Northern Ireland”.
“These comments will reinforce the justifiable perception in many minds that Republicans are treated with kid gloves by the police,” he said.
“The latest comments about the McGuigan murder will entrench the belief that protecting the process will always come before the need for justice for victims of the Provisionals.”