Northern Ireland news

At least two shots fired at west Belfast funeral

A picture posted on Twitter appeared to show a man firing a volley of shots over the coffin of Belfast man James McWilliams
Connla Young

At least two shots were fired by a masked man over the coffin of an IRSP member whose funeral took place on Thursday, it is understood.

James McWilliams (36), from Whitewell, on the outskirts of north Belfast, died from a suspected heart attack last weekend.

He was later described on social media as a "volunteer".

His Requiem Mass took place on Thursday at St Peter's Cathedral in west Belfast.

Pictures later emerged of a masked man holding a gun in the air over the coffin, prompting DUP Policing Board member Trevor Clarke to call for an investigation.

However, in a statement Superintendent Gerard Pollock said police were aware of the image and that "based on the information available to police" they "do not believe this image or the accompanying text to be an accurate description of what took place today".

Despite the PSNI statement The Irish News understands that at least two shots were fired close to the doors of the cathedral.

It has been suggested that the handgun used may have jammed and that the gunman was seen running from the area.

Other pictures have emerged of masked men and women flanking the coffin, which was draped in the tricolour and Starry Plough.

Mr McWilliams had been a member of the IRSP for around 20 years and sat on the Belfast Comhairle Ceantair.

IRSP man James McWilliams died last week

Earlier this week the party said it shared the Whitewell community's "anger" after the dead man's house was searched by police before his remains were returned home for his wake.

A spokesman for the PSNI said: "Following the sudden death of a man aged in his 30s at a house in the Felden Place area of Newtownabbey on Saturday 7 August, police maintained a scene at the house whilst an investigation was carried out to determine the circumstances surrounding the death."

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news