Northern Ireland news

Those loyal to Jock Davison determined to avenge his death regardless of political fallout

Police examine the scene of the attempted murder of Scott McHugh in Distillery Street in west Belfast 

THE murder of Short Strand republican Kevin McGuigan in apparent retaliation for the Jock Davison murder threatened to collapse the Stormont power-sharing government.

The attack on Scott McHugh, in remarkably similar circumstances, however is unlikely to cause a similar political backlash.

The McGuigan murder occurred during a political impasse over Sinn Féin's failure to agree a way forward on welfare reform and as such the shooting shone a spotlight on republicans and put pressure on the party at a critical juncture.

Friday's shooting however came on the day votes were being counted to elect a new assembly. The gun attack received just a fraction of the political condemnation the murder of Mr McGuigan attracted.

Despite being shot four times Mr McHugh survived and remained in a stable condition in hospital last night.

But what is clear though is that those behind the murder bid appear determined to avenge Davison's death, regardless of the passage of time, location or a lack of hard evidence against their intended target.

Scott McHugh was well aware he was under threat and had spent the last year moving around. However. those loyal to the former IRA leader have long memories and have shown they are determined to avenge him at any cost.

That includes ignoring potential, political fall out from carrying out attacks that will undoubtedly be once again linked to the IRA.

Following the assassination of Kevin McGuigan, the man republicans widely suspected as having pulled the trigger on Davison, police were quick to link the murder to members of the PIRA.

This was again confirmed in a paramilitary monitoring report carried out on the instruction of the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.

The political process was saved from the brink of collapse with the 'fresh start' agreement and Sinn Féin moved to distance themselves from those who carried out the attack.

Following the McGuigan murder a senior republican told me, 'If those responsible weren't dissident before they are now after what they've done'.

The party had massively underestimated the anger within their own rank and file that 'retired' members of the organisation could be murdered in the street without consequence.

While there were those within the movement willing to accept the peace process and the concessions that came with it such as policing and decommissioning, they were not it appears willing to stand back and allow one of their own to be killed without repercussion.

The attempted murder of Scott McHugh shows this is a score far from settled. Coming as it did on the day family and friends of Jock Davison were preparing to commemorate his death it sent out a very clear signal.

This is still unfinished business and there may yet be more bloodshed before this violent period reaches a conclusion.

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