Another Catholic died in Northern Ireland


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Date: 2/26/03
Time: 8:19:11 PM
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Another Catholic killed as IRA warns of 'crisis' By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press writer BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- A lone gunman shot dead a Roman Catholic man yesterday within hours of the funeral for another victim of Northern Ireland's rising tide of sectarian bloodshed.

And in another development that suggested the Irish Republican Army's 6-month-old truce might be in jeopardy, the IRA warned British Prime Minister Tony Blair that he has mishandled peacemaking efforts and "succumbed" to Protestant interests.

The IRA, which called the truce so that its allied Sinn Fein party could participate in peace talks, rejected a joint proposal by the British and Irish governments that called for Protestant and Catholic politicians to govern together in a new Northern Ireland assembly. The IRA statement ignored the Irish government's role in the document and claimed Blair "has created a crisis in the peace process."

Sinn Fein earlier had rejected the plan.

Witnesses said the latest shooting victim, who was not identified, was shot in the chest and neck while sitting in a car in the Protestant Sandy Row district of south Belfast. One gunman fled on foot, they said.

Police said the victim was a Catholic man in his mid-50s who worked at a hardware store in the area. No group claimed responsibility.

Three Catholics and a Protestant have been shot dead this week, while multiparty negotiations on Northern Ireland's future were continuing in east Belfast.

In Maghera, a mostly Catholic town 30 miles northwest of Belfast, Fergal McCusker, 28, was buried near the spot where his body was found Sunday. He had been abducted while walking home from a pub and shot dead.

Catholic Bishop Seamus Hegarty said the killings "are evil and so inimical to the peace which we are so earnestly trying to build."

"The multiparty talks must continue with a new resolve and with a new determination.

Our prayers are with all of those who are participating in the talks," Hegarty told more than 1,000 mourners at St. Patrick's Church.

Larry Brennan, a 52-year-old Catholic fatally shot in his taxi Monday night, and 38-year-old Jim Guiney, a Protestant businessman shot dead at his carpet shop Monday morning, were to be buried today.

The Loyalist Volunteer Force and the Irish National Liberation Army, two dissident gangs that oppose the cease-fires by Northern Ireland's major paramilitary groups, have claimed most of the recent violence.

The increase in violence threatens to drag in the two major paramilitary camps -- the IRA, which draws support from militant Catholics, and the Ulster Defense Association and Ulster Volunteer Force, whose Protestant commanders have been trying to maintain a truce since October 1994 so that their representatives could stay in the talks.