Trimble allegation causes outrage
The Irish Times06 July 2001
By Monika Unsworth, in Belfast
The Ulster Unionist leader, Mr David Trimble, has caused controversy for alleging that republicans were responsible for the killing of an Antrim man.
Mr Ciaran Cummings (19) was shot dead by two gunmen on a motorcycle on Wednesday morning at the Greystone roundabout, a few hundred yards from his home.
A caller claiming to represent a loyalist paramilitary splinter group, the Red Hand Defenders, claimed responsibility in a call to a Belfast newsroom. However, yesterday morning Mr Trimble claimed there was "good reason" to believe that republicans were responsible for Mr Cummings's death.
"Quite a few of the murders of Catholics over the last number of months have been by republicans, and I think we have got to bear that in mind. There is good reason to suspect that republicans were behind the Antrim murder.
"It goes back to drugs or a number of the various forms of racketeering. A number of murders of Catholics by republicans have been of people who have not been sharing the profits of their business with republicans the way they feel they ought to," Mr Trimble added.
Security sources dismissed Mr Trimble's remarks as "nonsense". The RUC officer in charge of the investigation, Det Supt John Brannigan, said there was "no information to suggest that republicans were involved". An RUC spokesman confirmed that while Mr Cummings had a number of minor criminal convictions none of them was in any way drugs-related.
Mr Cummings's family said it was too deep in grief to respond to Mr Trimble's comments, but rejected suggestions that he was involved in criminal activity.
Ulster Unionist sources appeared bewildered by Mr Trimble's comments, with a party spokesman saying the UUP leader had not been briefed by party headquarters on the matter.
The UUP MLA for Antrim, Mr Duncan Shipley Dalton, blamed the Red Hand Defenders for the killing. Nationalist politicians reacted angrily to Mr Trimble's allegations, with both the SDLP Finance Minister, Mr Mark Durkan, and the Sinn Féin Education Minister, Mr Martin McGuinness, calling on him to withdraw his remarks.
The SDLP MLA for South Antrim, Mr Donavan McClelland, said: "I knew Ciaran and his group of friends and can honestly say he was not involved in any drug-related activity as was inferred by Mr Trimble. His remarks are an absolute disgrace and have caused terrible hurt".
A Sinn Féin representative for the area, Mr Martin Meehan, said the sectarian nature of Mr Cummings's killing was not in question. "Everybody knows that this young man was killed by elements within Mr Trimble's own community for no other reason than he was a Catholic," he added.