Northern Ireland news

Michael McGibbon's widow tells vigil: ‘Dissidents can't beat us'

Joanne McGibbon (centre) with her daughter Seana and Father Gary Donegan at the candlelit vigil in Holy Cross Church. Picture by Philip Walsh

DISSIDENT republicans "can't beat us...we have to beat them" murder victim Michael McGibbon's wife Joanne said at a vigil in his memory.

The vigil in the grounds of Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, north Belfast, took place on Tuesday just across the road from the McGibbon family home.

A nurse, Joanne McGibbon tended to her dying husband after he was shot three times in the leg in an alleyway at Butler Place in north Belfast on Friday night.

Mrs McGibbon urged the Ardoyne community to "stick together" following the murder of the 33-year-old father-of-four.

"If we all stay strong, we can stop these people because we are stronger than them and they can't beat us," she said.

"It's not fair that families have to go through this. They are not judge and jury.

"I just to pray to God and I hope that he's watching over us that wherever we may go that he's always watching over this community. We need to stay strong and stick together and fight for what's yours."

She added: "Nobody deserves it. They can't beat you. We have to beat them."

Fr Gary Donegan, rector of Holy Cross, told the vigil that people "from the shadows" had killed Mr McGibbon and urged them to "turn away from your futile deeds".

The paramilitary group known as the ‘IRA’ has claimed responsibility for the murder.

"This little family that are here with us send out the strongest message to the dark forces that took Michael's life," Fr Donegan said.

Addressing dissidents, he said: "Where have you brought hope? Instead you've brought despair".

Fr Donegan said Mrs McGibbon had shown "more courage, conviction, compassion and mercy than you'll ever know".

"Her strength comes from love and love comes from God," he said.

"This community sends out a message tonight. Side by side, shoulder by shoulder, arm in arm, people of the shadow, your actions are not ours."

A 34-year-old man questioned about the murder was understood to be prominent dissident republican Dee Fennell.

He was later released unconditionally.

Funeral Mass for Mr McGibbon will be celebrated on Thursday at 10am in Holy Cross Church followed by burial in Carnmoney Cemetery.

He is survived by wife Joanne and children Seana, Shea, Michaela and Corry-Leigh.

A nightly loyalist protest at the Ardoyne interface was called off on Tuesday night as a mark of respect for Mr McGibbon.

It was the first time the nightly protest, which has been running for almost three years, has been called off.

PUP leader Billy Hutchinson extended his sympathies to Mr McGibbon's family.

"I very much welcome the efforts by the local Ligoniel Brethren to withdraw their protest this evening as the memorial service is conducted and as a mark of respect to the victim's family," he said.

"I would like to thank all those who have been involved in efforts to bring about this gesture."

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