Front Page







World Summary

On Air


Talking Point


Text Only


Site Map

Wednesday, December 31, 1997 Published at 08:46 GMT


Plea for peace as Ulster mourns
image: [ Seamus Dillon's coffin was accompanied by a guard of honour from his local Gaelic football team ]
Seamus Dillon's coffin was accompanied by a guard of honour from his local Gaelic football team

Security forces in Northern Ireland are braced for further violence following the funerals of the murdered Protestant paramilitary leader, Billy Wright, and the Republican who was killed in retaliation for his death.

Wright, known as King Rat, was head of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF). He was buried in his home town of Portadown in County Armagh.

BBC correspondent Tom Coulter says the astmosphere in Portadown is tense (0'55")
Twenty miles way in Coalisland the funeral took place of the former Republican prisoner, Seamus Dillon. He was gunned down in Country Tyrone only hours after Wright was murdered at the Maze prison on Saturday.

Police surveillance on Catholic-owned bars has been intensified amid fears of a further retaliatory strikes by Loyalist gunmen who have vowed to take revenge for Wright's death.

Streets packed with mourners

Thousands of people followed Wright's cortege as the Union Flag was lowered to half-mast and the Christmas lights stayed off.

In a graveside tribute, a convicted killer said Wright's life might have taken a different direction but for the violence of Northern Ireland.

[ image: Loyalists jostled cameramen who got near the Wright cortege]
Loyalists jostled cameramen who got near the Wright cortege
Pastor Kenny McClinton, a former UFF gunmen who once served a life sentence for murder, said Wright was a complicated, articulate and sophisticated man of high integrity.

"He has lived all his life in the Troubles. He suffered greatly and has caused suffering as a result," he said.

"This is a man who may have committed himself to terrible deeds of terrorism as many have, including myself, but he would not have robbed you of a penny. His word was his bond. He was man of high honesty."

Members of the media were warned to keep their distance from the funeral. Those who got too close were jostled by funeral stewards.

Virtually all businesses in the town were closed after shopkeepers received letters warning them to close for the the day as a mark of respect to the LVF chief. As the main throughfares emptied at noon, the Ulster Unionist Mayor of Craigavon said people felt intimidated.

All bus services were suspended because of the threat of trouble after the funeral.

[ image: Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was among the mourners at Dillon's funeral]
Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness was among the mourners at Dillon's funeral
At the time of his death, Wright, 37, was two months into an eight-year sentence for threatening to kill a woman, but was believed to have ordered or participated in several sectarian killings.

In recent years his militant opposition to peace talks had made him a target for rival Loyalist paramilitary groups as well as Republicans.

Seamus Dillon also had a history of sectarian violence. A former IRA member, he had served a life sentence for murder.

Violence condemned

However, relatives said that since his release from prison he had given up his old ways and tried to make a new life for himself. Dillon was shot while he was working as a doorman at the Glengannon Hotel, Dungannon. Two other men and a 14-year-old boy were also wounded in the attack.

[ image: Seamus Dillion's coffin]
Seamus Dillion's coffin
Although Sinn Fein's chief negotiator, Martin McGuinness, was among the mourners, the Dillon funeral lacked any of the usual trappings of a paramilitary send-off.

Conducting the service, the Very Reverend Seamus Rice made a plea for peace. "His mother and father and his whole family circle have time and time again asked that his death not be used for any kind of retaliation," he said.

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage


  Relevant Stories

30 Dec 97 | UK
Maze inquiry useless - Trimble

29 Dec 97 | UK
Three remanded on Maze murder charge

29 Dec 97 | UK
Security to be tightened at Maze

27 Dec 97 | UK
Paramilitaries vow to avenge killing

27 Dec 97 | UK
'King Rat', Ulster's infamous paramilitary

  Internet Links

The Northern Ireland Office

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.
In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online

UK Contents

Northern Ireland