Northern Ireland news

Ex-INLA leader dies after incident at Milltown Cemetery plot

Police at the scene of an incident at Milltown Cemetery and Martin McElkerney pictured in 2010

A former INLA leader died last night after an incident at the republican plot at Milltown Cemetery.

Friends of Martin McElkerney (57) had initiated a search of the west Belfast cemetery, fearing for his safety after he made a number of concerning phone calls.

After a short search he was discovered, with head injuries but still breathing, at the INLA burial plot in Milltown. A handgun was discovered close by.

Police closed off the cemetery shortly before 3pm yesterday, with two ambulance crews and the air ambulance attending the scene.

In 1987 McElkerney was sentenced to life in prison for an explosion in September 1982 which killed two schoolboys and a British soldier.

He was identified in court as the look-out for the INLA bomber who detonated the device at the Divis Flats complex in west Belfast.

Kevin Valliday (11), his friend Stephen Bennett (14) and Lance Bombardier Kevin Waller (20) all died as a result of the blast.

The botched attack caused a backlash in the Divis flats community, with more than 200 women marching in protest to the headquarters of the IRSP, the organisation’s political wing, on the Falls Road. McElkerney was arrested in 1986 after returning to Northern Ireland following a period of imprisonment in the Republic.

He was sentenced to three life terms in 1987.

He was later to be among the first INLA prisoners to be released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, when the organisation’s six-month-old ceasefire was officially accepted in 1999 by then secretary of state Mo Mowlam.

He was also among a delegation that confirmed to the media in a press conference in 2010 that the INLA had decommissioned weapons.

He continued to play an active role in the IRSP after this period.

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