A 26-year-old man has been arrested over the murder of dissident a republican in Belfast. Tommy Crossan was shot dead yesterday in an incident that has been described as a “terrible, tragic reminder of the violent conflict of the past.”
Crossan was killed in broad daylight and in full view of surrounding houses. A priest attended the scene to give last rights to the victim in an area that has long been a republican heartland, but which has been relatively peaceful since the IRA’s ceasefire in 1998.
Crossan was formerly a senior member of the Continuity IRA, a group who broke away from the original IRA in 1986 in protest at the decision of republican candidates taking seats in the Republic of Ireland’s parliament.
The Mirror reports that Crossan was killed after former colleagues accused him of being an informant for British security services and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. It says that three men in a red BMW car carried out the killing.
One local resident even told the paper: “It is terrible for his wife and children but other than that there’s little sympathy for Tommy Crossan on this street.
“You reap what you sow and he has been part of a wrecking ball in our community and now he is gone. He was warned.”
The killing was condemned by Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness. Peter Robinson said that murder “can never be justified in any circumstances” and urged anyone with information to come forward. Martin McGuinness said that “all right-thinking people across the community” would oppose and reject the murder.
Colin Keenan, councillor for the republican Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), 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.”
Belfast Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir reacted with despair at the killing. He said that the people of Northern Ireland hoped the “days of death and murder on our streets” were over.
“Especially at Eastertide when the city is getting ready for Easter holidays and also the Easter anniversary commemorations. And also on the anniversary of course of the Good Friday agreement – on the 16th anniversary.”
“It’s a shameful situation that thugs and criminals can bring death to our streets,” the mayor added.
Police have not yet released details of the arrested man.