It is unclear if a shooting on Thursday which left west Belfast man Joe Reilly dead is connected to tensions within a small breakaway IRA group which saw another man survive a ‘punishment’ shooting earlier in the week.
A number of politicians and media sources have tacitly linked the shock killing in Poleglass on Thursday night to the Oglaigh na hEireann [‘Irish Volunteers’] group, but there has been no claim of responsibility so far.
Oglaigh na hEireann (ONH) claimed responsibility for two non-fatal gun attacks after accusing the victims of using the organisation’s name “for their own ends”.
In a statement put through some doors in the Belfast area, ONH claimed responsibility for a serious punishment shooting on Sunday in the Glenwood Drive area of Poleglass. It also claimed responsibility for a similar attack in June, and said it had been planning to execute another man but he managed to escape. It said that man “has no other option but to leave the country” now, and that it would shoot anyone else it deems guilty of ‘collaborating’ with the State.
Joe Reilly (pictured) was shot dead just yards from the site of Sunday’s attack in what the PSNI described as a “cold-blooded, summary execution of a man in his own house”.
Sinn Fein Assembly member Jennifer McCann condemned the attack as “brutal” which she said had “achieved nothing other than plunging another family into grief and despair. SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood condemned the shooting as “barbaric”. He said: “These savage assaults had no place in our past and they have no place in our society today.”
In recent years there has been increasing criticism in nationalist areas of armed groups who have ceased to pose a challenge to the British Crown forces, but continue to bring violence into those areas.
The PSNI have also been accused of adopting a ‘dirty war’ agenda in regard to such attacks after one ‘punishment’ victim said he had been pressurised by the police into making false allegations against a well-known west Belfast republican for the attack.
This week’s ONH statement was uncompromising. It said the two men it shot were subjected to an “extensive and robust investigation into individuals using the organisation’s name, resources and personnel to undermine both the leadership and rank and file volunteers”.
It accused the men shot, and the one who escaped, of having “covertly collaborated with criminal elements, directing them to engage in anti-social behaviour and other activities not befitting of any republican”.
The statement added: “During our investigation the individuals involved in the saboteur campaign were identified. All of these persons were arrested, questioned and subsequently expelled from Oglaigh na hEireann. Two of the men were subjected to military action.”
It went on to accuse one of the men targeted of having used the “banner of Irish republicanism to carry out immoral and reprehensible activity within the north Belfast community”.
The statement, which was signed Oglaigh na hEireann Belfast Brigade, concluded with the statement that “any person who collaborates with a State led agenda to undermine our organisation will receive the same treatment as those who have already tread that nefarious path”.