Former members of the Provisional IRA are understood to have fired a volley of shots in memory of their comrade Peter ‘Pepe’ Rooney, who was buried last Wednesday after a lengthy battle with cancer.
The tribute reportedly took place the night before the funeral, which was attended by thousands of people in one of the largest republican funerals seen in many years.
Well known in his native west Belfast, in 1981, Mr Rooney was convicted after being arrested as part of a colour party which fired shots over the coffin of Joe McDonnell, who died after 61 days on hunger strike. A picture of that event is one of the most iconic of the conflict.
Dressed in full uniform, he was with three other men pictured firing a three-volley salute to the IRA man before making off. The British army and the RUC police moved in on the funeral, which ended in widespread civil disorder. The picture is one of the most iconic of the conflict.
Mr Rooney was arrested along with three other men and served a prison sentence in Long Kesh. After being released he returned to IRA activity.
Originally from the St James’s area, his brother Daniel Rooney was shot in September 1972 by a gunman from the British Army’s shoot-to-kill unit, the Military Reaction Force (MRF). He was also a close friend and comrade of Dan McCann, who was shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar.
While military-style commemorations have been held previously for the Provisional IRA’s D Company, a unit of its 2nd Battalion in west Belfast, it is the first time in recent years that a gun salute has taken place.
DUP leader Arlene Foster condemned the tribute as a “glorification of terrorism”. She added: “Politicians and the community came together to say no. There should be the same unity against actions like this.”
Sinn Féin has not commented on the reports.