Bomb victim knew he was a marked man

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The Independent Online
Eddie Copeland, the republican activist injured in yesterday's bomb attack, has led an eventful, violence-studded life in what is probably Northern Ireland's most violent locality.

On the streets of the small, cramped Catholic ghetto of Ardoyne, his father was shot dead by troops in the early 1970s. He himself was shot twice by a soldier three years ago. He has been stalked by loyalist gunmen; now he has narrowly escaped death.

Mr Copeland has known for years that he was a marked man, carrying as he does the reputation of being one of north Belfast's most senior republican figures.

It was in October 1971 that his father was killed by the Army on his doorstep: troops claimed he had a gun, but later a soldier came forward to say he was unarmed.

Mr Copeland was for years high on the loyalist paramilitary target list, but in 1993 it was a soldier who almost killed him. His friend Thomas Begley had just been killed, together with Protestant civilians, in a premature IRA explosion as he planted a bomb in a Shankill Road fish shop.

He was standing with other mourners outside the Begley household in Ardoyne when a soldier on patrol opened fire on him, hitting him twice. The soldier was later jailed for 10 years. The court heard that the patrol had been shown a photograph of Mr Copeland before being sent out: the soldier, it was said, felt "generally pissed off at seeing players [republican activists] walking the streets".

The following year he was alleged by David Trimble, now leader of the Ulster Unionist party, to be an IRA "godfather". Mr Trimble used parliamentary privilege to make the allegation.

A plaque on a gable wall in Ardoyne carries the names of more than 120 local people killed in the troubles. Yesterday Mr Copeland's was almost added to the list.