Father of murder victim Gareth O'Connor accuses Sinn Féin of ‘hypocrisy' over condemnation of Ardoyne killing

Gareth O'Connor, whose body was found in Newry Canal, is believed to have been murdered by the Provisional IRA in 2003. Picture by Alan Lewis
John Monaghan

THE father of a man believed to have been murdered by the Provisional IRA has accused Sinn Féin of "more hypocrisy" following their condemnation of the killing of Michael McGibbon.

Mark O'Connor, whose son Gareth (24) was discovered in a car in Newry Canal in 2005, accused the republican leadership of treating the two murders differently.

Last year an inquest into Mr O'Connor's death was dramatically halted after it was revealed that a suspect in the case was wrongly issued with a so-called on-the-run letter.

Mr O'Connor went missing in 2003 on his way to Dundalk Garda station to sign bail on a charge of Real IRA membership.

His body was discovered in Newry Canal two years later.

It emerged that in 2008, a key suspect in the case, understood to be from the south Armagh area, was given the letter by Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly.

Mr Kelly said he didn't know who received the letter, a claim that was been dismissed by the victim's family.

Under the scheme, which came to light during the collapse of the trial of John Downey, who was a suspect in the 1982 Hyde Park bombing, more than 200 people were told they were not wanted for paramilitary crimes committed before the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Following the killing of Mr McGibbon, who died after being shot several times in the leg in an alleyway in Ardoyne at the weekend, Mr Kelly said he "unreservedly condemned the murder".

Mr Kelly said: "I am calling on anyone with information on both of these killings to bring it forward to the PSNI. There can be no place for such actions in our society."

But last night Mr O'Connor told The Irish News: "The man that received the letter hasn't been questioned about our son. Would Sinn Féin support an on-the-run letter being given to the suspects in this murder?

"Is it all right to murder for the IRA and escape justice although if you aren't murdering for the IRA you must face the consequences?

"We always hold out hope but Sinn Féin are the blocking mechanism in this. Sinn Féin have never done anything to assist...there was no help given to us at all."

Sinn Féin declined to comment.

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