Man (24) critical but stable following north Belfast shooting
A MAJOR police search was underway last night for a missing illegally-held firearm which is believed to have injured a father-of-one during a violent confrontation.
The man, named locally as Richard `Ricky' Mailey, suffered facial injuries and a gunshot wound to the abdomen and was found bleeding near Grainne House flats complex in the New Lodge Road area of north Belfast at around 1.30am on Saturday.
He was last night in a "stable" condition at the Royal Victoria Hospital.
Police had responded after gunshots were heard in the area.
Reports from the area suggested the 24-year-old, from nearby Brookvale Drive, had been involved in an "altercation with several young teenagers", during which a gun was produced.
It was suggested that Mr Mailey was injured when a firearm - said to be a shotgun - was accidentally discharged.
However, last night police announced that detectives had arrested a 23-year-old man man on suspicion of attempted murder".
The PSNI said this morning that the man has been released on bail pending further enquiries.
"Although we are not treating this incident as a paramilitary-style attack, we are appealing to anyone who was in the area, around 1.30am yesterday morning and saw what happened, to get in touch with us on the non-emergency number 101, quoting reference number 94 of 15/9/18.
"The man remains in hospital and is being treated for his injuries."
While the spokeswoman would not comment, it is understood that the gun was not recovered by police, with reports last night claiming it is now in the hands of a local "crime gang" and "still circulating in the New Lodge".
SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said there was people in the area were disturbed by the shooting.
"It's very worrying that guns are on the streets," he said.
"The police need to reassure the community. There is a lot of worry in the community".
The PSNI said they are "currently working to establish the exact circumstances of this incident" and have appealed for anyone with information to contact them.
Offices were combing the area for much of yesterday, with forensic officers conducting an extensive examination of the scene.
Mr Mailey is understood to be a relative of Stephen Irwin, a member of the UFF gang that carried out the Greysteel massacre on October 30 1993.
Eight people - six Catholics and two Protestants - were killed and 19 injured in the shooting at the Rising Star bar.
Irwin was sentenced to eight years, alongside fellow loyalists Torrens Knight, Jeffrey Deeney and Brian McNeill.
He was given early release in 2000, under the Good Friday Agreement, but was back behind bars five years later after being convicted of knifing a football fan at the 2004 Irish cup final.
The shooting in the early hours of Saturday, followed disturbances in the New Lodge area on Friday night.
Sinn Féin councillor JJ Magee said: "The people of the New Lodge are concerned that trouble has spilled over into the streets and caused disturbance to local businesses and homes," he said.
"There can be no place for guns on our streets.
"Details of that attack are still emerging, but I wish the man injured a speedy recovery and clearly this incident could have had even more disastrous consequences.
"I am calling on anyone with information on either of these attacks to bring it forward to the PSNI".