Belfast shooting victim named as prominent dissident

PSNI officers close to the scene of the shooting. Picture: PA

A prominent dissident republican has been gunned down in broad daylight in the North.

Tommy Crossan was shot dead in the grounds of an industrial complex in West Belfast, in full view of surrounding houses, a local representative said.

A priest attended to pray over the bloodied victim in an area long known as a republican heartland but which has been relatively peaceful in recent years following the end of the IRA campaign in 1998.

Nationalist SDLP councillor Colin Keenan said: “We have long hoped that the shadow of death had been lifted from West Belfast.

“Today’s event is a terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past.”

Crossan was reportedly the Continuity IRA’s former leader and was believed to be the subject of a death threat from his former allies.

The organisation has opposed the peace process which largely ended three decades of violence and transformed the region.

The attack happened at the Peter Pan Centre in Springfield Road, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said.

The road, one of the main arterial routes, has been closed to traffic.

Family members have arrived and are said to be devastated.

A PSNI spokesman said: “Police are investigating a fatal shooting in the Springfield Road area of West Belfast this afternoon.

“One man has been shot dead in the vicinity of the Peter Pan Centre.”

The largely-nationalist area of Belfast is mainly made up of tightly-packed terraced housing estates and businesses.

Mr Keenan said it was a horrific scene.

The CIRA murdered Police Constable Stephen Carroll in Lurgan in Co Armagh in March 2009. It has since been riven with splits.

Members of the security forces have been on high alert for attacks by various extremist factions who have also killed two soldiers and a prison officer.

In recent weeks they have stepped up efforts to kill police officers, with several attacks on the force in West Belfast.

After the murder of prison officer David Black on the M1 motorway in November 2012, police mounted an unprecedented surveillance operation against various factions as well making significant arrests.

CIRA was formed after splits in the Provisional IRA in 1986. However, it was mainstream Sinn Féin and the IRA's decision to sign up to non-violence principles during all-party talks in the run-up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that prompted Crossan to embrace dissident republicanism.

He told the Observer: “Bobby Sands (the IRA hunger striker) is one of my great heroes... I was 10 when he died, that’s when I became interested in republicanism – but everything he fought for has been sold out.

“Prisoners like him died for political status, and now it’s being taken away from republicans at a time Sinn Féin are doing something they vowed they would never do – sit in a Stormont government.”

Crossan served time in prison for conspiracy to murder Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officers following a gun attack on a police station in West Belfast in 1998.

Sinn Féin Stormont Assembly Member Jennifer McCann said those behind Crossan’s killing had no consideration for anyone in the community except themselves and their own criminal agenda.

She added: “They have shot a man dead and endangered anyone in the immediate vacinity.

“There is now a family in mourning and a community traumatised by this shooting.

“It will not go unnoticed that, with sadness, at Easter time as republicans gather to commemorate their patriot dead, that there are criminals on the streets masquerading as republicans for their own ends.

“This community does not want them. They need to listen to this community, stop these senseless actions and go away.”

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