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Bloody Sunday, election, Irish, Ireland, British, Ulster, Unionist, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Ahern, Blair, Irish America

Republicans face death threats as tensions grow

(by Suzanne Breen, Sunday Tribune)

Two members of Republican Sinn Féin in Belfast have received death threats amidst growing tensions following the murder of two dissidents last week.

Veteran west Belfast activist, Geraldine Taylor, a candidate in the recent Assembly elections, and a north Belfast Republican Sinn Féin member, have been told by police that their lives are in danger.

Republican Sinn Féin is widely viewed as the political wing of the Continuity IRA (CIRA), a claim the party denies.

The threat against its members comes from a self-styled vigilante group calling itself the Irish Republican Liberation Army (IRLA) which recently broke away from CIRA. Two other republicans were also warned their lives are in danger.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has delivered details of the warning to the four republicans at their homes. It is understood the individuals under threat have increased their personal security.

Republican sources expressed concern that the situation could rapidly deteriorate further.

The threats follow the murder of Ed Burns and Joe Jones, members of the breakaway group. Burns was shot in the head near St Galls' GAA club in west Belfast. Jones was battered to death with a spade in Ardoyne, north Belfast. So horrific were his injuries that his body was difficult to identify.

The men were killed in a dispute with other dissident republicans, who had previously been friends, over guns. The two men responsible for the murders are now on the run.

CIRA has been widely blamed for the killings despite its statement denying involvement. Taylor said she was "very concerned" about the death threat.

"The killing of Joe Jones and Ed Burns had nothing to do with Republican Sinn Féin so I don't see why we should be targeted in any revenge attack. We are a political party, not a military organisation," she said.

"We were appalled at the horrific way in which Joe Jones died. I have been threatened by loyalists before, but never by republicans. All this is dragging republicanism into the gutter."

Taylor said police had told her the Irish Republican Liberation Army had said that the retaliatory attacks would not occur until after Joe Jones' funeral. Jones was buried on Friday.

March 26, 2007

This article appeared in the March 25, 2007 edition of the Sunday Tribune.