'Real IRA member' shot dead in Belfast

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The Independent Online

A man who was shot dead in a Catholic area of west Belfast yesterday is said to have been a dissident republican and a member of the Real IRA, the group responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing.

A man who was shot dead in a Catholic area of west Belfast yesterday is said to have been a dissident republican and a member of the Real IRA, the group responsible for the 1998 Omagh bombing.

Joseph O'Connor, 26, had just got into a car after leaving his mother's house in the Ballymurphy area when two men - hooded, according to one report - approached the vehicle and shot him several times in the head at point-blank range.

The immediate suspects were the Real IRA itself or the Continuity IRA, the two main republican dissident groups not on ceasefire and which have been committing sporadic acts of violence.

Some sources said Mr O'Connor had originally been a member of the Continuity IRA before becoming a member of the Real IRA. Speculation centred on reports that he had displeased some organisation or faction, possibly by taking some of its weapons.

There have been local reports of tensions between and within the two dissident groups in the west Belfast area, where the two groups have a small presence. Recently the Continuity IRA in west Belfast warned that it would "execute" anyone falsely claiming to act in its name.

Mr O'Connor was killed outside the house where his grandfather was shot dead by loyalist gunmen 13 years ago.

In a separate development, a number of people were arrested yesterday when police seized a grenade launcher and warheads in a nationalist district of the Dunmurry area on the outskirts of west Belfast.

* Ulster Unionists are to debate their participation in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive with Sinn Fein on 28 October. The party leader, David Trimble, is expected to come under strong criticism over his policy of taking part in a coalition with Sinn Fein.

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