Recovery of body dismissed
Recovery of body dismissed

The Ulster Unionist party has expressed dismay at reports that the IRA may have disclosed the location of the body of alleged IRA informer Gareth O’Connor.

The mother of the 24-year-old said she hopes the body recovered from a canal outside Newry in County Armagh is her son’s.

Bernadette O’Connor said it would be a “relief” to finally have her son’s body to lay to rest.

“It would be a blessing. I hope it is Gareth so we can put him to rest and start grieving.”

Mr O’Connor has been missing since May 11, 2003. His blue Volkswagen Golf was taken from Victoria Lock in Newry Canal at the weekend following a reported tip-off to clergymen. A body found inside has not yet been conclusively identified, nor has the cause of death.

Mr O’Connor had links with the Real IRA, and dissident republicans have been accused of being behind his abduction two years ago.

His father, Mark O’Connor, said his son had also been involved in a financial dspute with the Provisional IRA before his disappearance. The Provisional IRA has denied any involvement in Mr O’Connor’s disappearance.

Senior Ulster Unionist and potential party leader, Reg Empey, accused the IRA of acting “cynically” in advance of an expected move by the organisation to disarm.

Empey, who is currently seeking the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Party, warned that the discovery of the body and the charges against two people relating to the murder of Robert McCartney could be “interpreted as a tidying-up operation by republicans”.

“I think this is a sort of cleaning of the stables in advance of the IRA announcement, and I think it will be seen as a cynical exercise. It is already devaluing the benefit of what republicans do,” he added. Empey said that “such jiggery pokery” would not wash.

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© 2005 Irish Republican News