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Priest warns police against "arrests for sake of arrests" following McGibbon murder

Father Gary Donegan has called on police to avoid "arrests for the sake of arrests" following the murder of Michael McGibbon. Picture by Philip Walsh
John Monaghan

A north Belfast priest has warned against making "arrests for the sake of arrests" following the murder of Michael McGibbon.

The 33-year-old, who was shot three times in the leg in an alleyway in Ardoyne on Friday night, will be buried after Requiem Mass at Holy Cross Church today.

Prominent republican Damien 'Dee' Fennell (34) was arrested on Sunday in connection with the killing before being released unconditionally the following day.

In a statement on Tuesday, the paramilitary group known as the ‘IRA’ claimed responsibility for the murder.

It claimed its intention had not been to kill the taxi driver.

Fr Gary Donegan, rector at Holy Cross, warned police last night about increasing tensions.

"The one thing that we don't need is the rounding up of the usual suspects. All that does is raise tensions in the area," he said.

"In the last year we have seen arrests where you could have named the people beforehand, and all it does is add to statistics which are unnecessary in terms of stop and search."

Fr Donegan added: "We would hope that due process will flow and not just arrests for the sake of arrests."

The north Belfast priest also described the paramilitary claim of responsibility as "mealy mouthed".

"You don't fire at someone without realising that there is a chance of a fatal outcome," he said.

"Let's say these people were ever in government in future, what sort of dictatorship would we be living under?"

On Tuesday evening, a vigil in Mr McGibbon's memory was held in the grounds of Holy Cross.

His widow Joanne described her final moments with her husband.

She said he had believed "he was just going to go down and have a word" with people in the alleyway at Butler Place.

"I just hugged him and he told me how much he loved me and how much he loved the family," she told UTV.

Fr Donegan said: "An eye needs to be kept to Joanne, because this limelight will go away and that is when it will hit her hardest.

"Whatever outcome those responsible for Michael's death were hoping for has most certainly backfired."

He added: "What I have seen with this is different to anything I have seen in the last 15 years in Ardoyne. People won't be cowed by these individuals who lie in the shadows."

The priest added that that he had been liaising with another family who had received a threat in recent days.

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