Four years on from his death, the family of a man who died following his arrest in Belfast city centre have been calling for the truth.
A candlelit vigil has taken place near the spot on Great Victoria Street where Gerard McMahon was set upon by the PSNI and sprayed with a debilitating chemical. The 36-year-old DJ, from the Short Strand area, died in hospital a few hours later.
Known as ‘Mako’ and from a well-known republican family, Gerard was described as being in a vulnerable state at the time of the incident. The PSNI initially claimed they had responded to reports of a man behaving “violently” on the street, and that he suffered serious physical injuries while “being restrained”.
It took an investigation by the Police Ombudsman to confirm that a form of CS gas had been used against Gerard. A file was sent to the Public Prosecution Service in October 2019 and a full inquest into Mr McMahon’s death was scheduled to take place in February 2020, but that was postponed.
The family have been backed by the Relatives for Justice organisation, who said they extended their thanks to all who have supported them throughout the investigations while they await a new date for the inquest.
On Tuesday night, prayers were said as Mr McMahon’s family pleaded for the truth about what happened. Scores and family and friends took part in the vigil outside the Grand Opera House where Gerard was attacked, holding banners calling for truth and justice.
Gerard’s mum Ella McMahon said: “This past four years has been just devastating. I am just numbed. I just can’t believe that happened to him.
“His friends are still deeply disturbed over the injustice of it all. The inquest was supposed to happen in June but it didn’t happen because of coronavirus. I know we do have a big fight on our hands but I want answers and we want some sort of justice.
Margaret Kelly said losing her big cousin has hit the whole family hard. She described Gerard as an “absolutely amazing fella” whose smile was infectious.
She added: “He was a brother, son, a daddy and a cousin and we loved him. We are heartbroken because of the loss. We will never stop fighting until we know exactly what happened to him the night of his death.”