A man gunned downed at the gates of a South Belfast primary school on Thursday was responsible for the 1996 murder of former commander of the INLA republican armed group, Gino Gallagher.

Kevin McAlorum Jnr was shot dead in the driveway of Oakwood Primary School at Derriaghy after dropping a number of children off at the school.

In what appeared to be a crefully planned ambush, McAlorum was targeted by two gunmen after his car was rammed by a white van as he left the school grounds.

It has been suggested that the killing of McAlorum may be a revenge attack for the 1996 murder of leader Gino Gallagher. Others, including INLA sources and the PSNI police, have suggested a link to the drugs underworld of unionist paramilitaries.

McAlorum was a despised figure after he was accused of carrying out the murder of Gino Gallagher, a revered figure in the Republican Socialist Movement.

The INLA denied McAlorum was ever a member and linked him to the drugs trade of the unionist paramilitary UDA. They also described him as being close to two former members who inspired a bloody internal feud in 1996 which left eight dead, Hugh Torney and Dessie McCleery,

“They were the ones who paid him to assassinate Gino,” said one insider.

Republicans in Belfast had little time for McAlorum. Sources close to the INLA have denied, however, that the INLA killed Mr McAlorum yesterday.

“This wasn’t a case of getting revenge for Gino. The feud ended when Hugh Torney was killed. That was the agreement at the time, and the INLA would not break that agreement. Otherwise what would be the point of having mediation in feuds?” said a senior member of the Irish Republican Socialist Party, which is linked to the INLA.

McAlorum was also involved in the attempted murder of a leading INLA member in west Belfast a month after the killing of Gino Gallagher.

School children at the South Belfast school were horrified to witness the killing.

Some parents and teachers cried to the children to “duck” and “get down” as the gunmen fired at their victim at close range, eyewitnesses reported.

“There were a lot of parents and they were the last group of children coming in before school started, so quite a few people were very stressed by what they saw and heard,” said the head teacher.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News