Trimble apologises to Antrim family

The Irish Times—07 July 2001


By Paul Tanney, in Belfast

The Ulster Unionist leader has apologised to the family of a Co Antrim teenager shot dead on Wednesday after he linked his death with drugs.

Speaking on RTÉ last Thursday Mr David Trimble had claimed the shooting of 19-yearold Mr Ciarán Cummings was the result of a link with drugs and had been carried out by republicans.

The RUC Chief Constable yesterday rejected Mr Trimble's remarks.

Sir Ronnie Flanagan, also speaking on RTÉ, said detectives did not believe republicans would be involved in "this dreadful murder".

"It would be our belief at this stage that Ciarán was murdered by so-called loyalists," he said.

Before entering talks in Hillsborough yesterday the former first minister retracted his earlier statement.

"I have seen the press reports with regard to the killing in Antrim and the very clear and unequivocal statement by the police with regard to who they regard as responsible for it," he said.

"Clearly the indications I had received were inaccurate, and obviously I withdraw those comments and I wish to apologise to the family for any suffering that the comments may have caused them."

Mr Trimble would not comment on the source for his original comments, but the Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim, Mr David Burnside, did not deny he had discussed the case with his party leader.

"I have private conversations all the time with colleagues; private conversations I do not make public," he said.

He also said that he had visited the family yesterday to express his condolences.

The SDLP's Mrs Bríd Rodgers welcomed Mr Trimble's apology to the Cummings family.

"The family were very upset about the implications of what Mr Trimble said and I know they will be relieved," she added.

Mr Alex Maskey, of Sinn Féin, also welcomed Mr Trimble's comments. "It was the only thing he could have done and we certainly welcome his course of action," he said.

Meanwhile, detectives investigating the killing, carried out by two men on a motorcycle, were yesterday examining a black motorcycle they found during a search of a garage on the loyalist Ballycraigy estate in Antrim. They also found two replica firearms, balaclavas and combatstyle clothing.

An RUC spokesman last night said detectives were still examining the vehicle, which was only "possibly" linked to the killing.

Mr Cummings's funeral will take place at 9.30 a.m. today at St Joseph's Parish Church in Antrim town.


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