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Friday, January 29, 1999 Published at 16:08 GMT

Real IRA denies Collins murder

Eamon Collins was murdered in a "horrendous" attack

The dissident republican group responsible for the Omagh bombing has denied any involvement in the murder of former IRA member Eamon Collins.

Mr Collins, who was stabbed repeatedly while out walking on a country road near his home on the outskirts of Newry, was laid to rest on Friday with a low-key funeral attended by fewer than 100 mourners including his wife Bernie and their four young children .

Ireland Correspondent Mark Devenport: "Collins was dismissive of dissident republicans opposed to peace process"
On Thursday night, a caller using a recognised code word told a Belfast newsroom that the faction known as the Real IRA had nothing to do with the killing.

Earlier, the UK Government came under renewed pressure to take action against the increasing level of violence in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's First Minister and leader of the Ulster Unionists, David Trimble, said ministers must "grasp the nettle" after the murder of Mr Collins and a loyalist bomb attack on a Catholic family in County Tyrone.

[ image: David Trimble:
David Trimble: "The government must act"
Mr Trimble accused the IRA of responsibility for Mr Collins' murder and said the ceasefire had been broken.

The Ulster Unionist leader, who voted in the Commons on Wednesday night for an opposition motion demanding a halt to early prisoner releases, said the Northern Ireland Secretary, Mo Mowlam, had to act now.

"It's important for the government to show through its actions that it is not turning a blind eye," said Mr Trimble.

It was fairly clear who had murdered Mr Collins, he insisted. "Presumably the same people who burned his house and tried to run him over - the IRA."

He also criticised loyalists behind the pipe bomb attack on a Catholic family in Dungannon, County Tyrone, saying the motives of those elements of loyalism which gave the republican movement a further excuse for violence had to be questioned.

Funeral preparations

Mr Collins' wife is preparing for her husband's burial in his home town of Newry, Co Down on Friday, after police revealed he suffered a "horrendous death".

His body was found at dawn on Wednesday on a country lane.

Ireland Correspondent Mark Devenport: Eamon Collins had many enemies
After a post-mortem examination, detectives said the 44-year-old had been repeatedly stabbed.

Chief Inspector Eddie Graham said: "It's more a kind of crime related to primitive man than a society at the end of the 20th century. He obviously suffered a horrendous death. He suffered quite substantial head injuries and stab wounds."

He appealed to the Newry community to come forward with any information about Mr Collins' movements after he left his home in the town to take his dogs for their regular early morning walk.

Detectives, he said, were keeping an open mind about who was responsible for the brutal killing and refused to blame the IRA. "We have not ruled out anything." But Mr Collins' widow said: "They finally got him."

Sinn Fein denials

However, the Sinn Fein Chairman of Newry District Council, Brendan Curran, denied the IRA was responsible and branded the killing "senseless and needless".

Mr Collins angered the IRA by describing it as a ramshackle organisation in a book called Killing Rage. He was also responsible for providing police with evidence to convict other IRA men.

Graffiti painted on walls around his home town, and two attempts on his life in the past year had finally made his family think about moving away. But Mr Collins decided to remain in his home town.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the murder was "regrettable" but conceded that Mr Collins had "many enemies in many, many, many places".

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