Prominent republican survives gun attack

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A gun attack on a well-known Belfast republican has raised fears of the return of a grudge-type dispute in east Belfast which in 2015 claimed the lives of two former members of the Provisional IRA, Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan.

Pat Fitzpatrick is a prominent Sinn Féin supporter who has appeared at events alongside leading members of the party.

After hearing a bang as he was standing beside his car in the Short Strand area, Mr Fitzpatrick threw himself to the ground. He was shot in the back, but his life was saved by a bulletproof vest. As he lay helpless, he heard a gun being cocked, indicating the weapon had jammed, so he jumped up and fled. The gunman did not give chase. The PSNI later seized the bulletproof vest.

Mr Fitzpatrick has long denied any involvement in the killing of Kevin McGuigan, the disaffected former IRA member who was named as a suspect in the murder of Jock Davison.

The murder of Jock Davison, who held a senior position in the Provisional IRA and remained close to the Sinn Féin leadership, shocked the party in 2015.

A subsequent PSNI claim that former PIRA members were involved in the ‘revenge’ killing of Mr McGuigan, for which Mr Fitzpatrick was questioned, and that some PIRA structures remained in place, briefly threatened to collapse Stormont.

Action Against Drugs, a vigilante-style organisation said to include former members of a number of IRA groups, had threatened to kill anybody who had any involvement in the murder of Davison. They were widely accused of killing Kevin McGuigan.

It is the second time that Mr Fitzpatrick has survived a murder bid. In 1988 he lost an eye when a UVF gang opened fire on him as he sat in his taxi.

On Sunday night the Sinn Féin policing spokesperson Gerry Kelly condemned the latest attack.

“There is no place for guns in our society and those responsible for the attack must be taken off the streets and should face due process in the courts,” he said.

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