Killing of INLA leader may not end feud

Opinions differed yesterday on whether or not Tuesday night's assassination of a leading figure in the Irish National Liberation Army meant the end of the vicious feud which has claimed six lives this year.

The man shot dead in Lurgan, Co Armagh, Hugh Torney, was the leader of one the two warring factions within the organisation. The leader of the other camp, Gino Gallagher, was shot dead in January, reportedly on Torney's orders.

Torney's death may bring an end to the blood-letting, with each side reckoning that honour has been satisfied. Or one side or other in this particularly unpredictable group may continue to seek vengeance, a tendency which has been one of the primary characteristics of INLA members.

The risks involved in being an INLA member are the stuff of many bad- taste jokes in Belfast. They are illustrated by the fact that, of 27 defendants in a major INLA trial in the mid-1980s, eight have since been killed. One of these was killed by loyalists: the rest all died in internal feuding. The Sinn Fein spokesman Mitchel McLaughlin called on the INLA factions to disband, declaring: "Neither of these two groups has any constructive contribution to make to the struggle for justice and the search for peace."

Torney's republican career stretched back to his teens. In 1971 he was injured during a gun battle with troops in west Belfast, and in 1973 he was jailed on an arms charge. Over the years he escaped several loyalist attempts to kill him, and survived a number of murder bids by INLA associates.

He spent several years on remand on murder and other charges in the mid-1980s but was acquitted when the "supergrass" trials collapsed. When shot dead he was on the run, having last year skipped bail in the Irish Republic, where he faced trial for an arms offence.

An SDLP delegation yesterday met Irish ministers in Dublin in advance of the multi-party talks which reopen in Belfast next week. The Irish foreign minister, Dick Spring, said renewed confidence was needed after a summer of unrest.