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The BBC's Kevin Connolly
"Ciaran Cummings had no convictions for drug offences"
 real 28k

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble
"I realise I was not well briefed and withdraw the remarks"
 real 28k

SDLP assembly member Brid Rodgers
"I am glad David Trimble has cleared the air by apologising"
 real 28k

Friday, 6 July, 2001, 15:34 GMT 16:34 UK
Trimble apologises over murder claim
The man was shot at Greystone Roundabout in Antrim
Mr Trimble had claimed republicans were responsible
Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has apologised to the family of the murdered County Antrim teenager shot dead on Wednesday.

The former Northern Ireland first minister had claimed the murder of 19-year-old Ciaran Cummings was a result of a link with drugs and had been carried out by republicans.

Speaking outside Hillsborough Castle in County Down on Friday, Mr Trimble said the information he had received had been false and he would now like to withdraw his comments.

Mr Cummings was shot at the Greystone roundabout in Antrim town just after 0700 BST on Wednesday as he waited for a lift to work.

His funeral will take place at 0930 BST on Saturday at St Joseph's parish church in the town.

Suffering

Mr Trimble said: "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.

David Trimble: Has withdrawn his comments
David Trimble: Has withdrawn his comments

"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."

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

Mrs Rodgers, who met the family on Thursday night, said she believed they would be extremely relieved that Mr Trimble had publicly withdrawn his comments.

"The family were very upset about the implications of what Mr Trimble said.

Statement

Earlier on Friday, the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, dismissed Mr Trimble's claims that republicans were responsible for the murder.

On Thursday, on RTE radio, Mr Trimble said: "I know that yesterday a statement came from one of these dissident loyalist groups.

"But there's good reason to believe that republicans were behind the Antrim murder."

Claims rejected

The senior detective investigating the killing also rejected Mr Trimble's suggestions.

On Thursday, Detective Superintendent John Brannigan said: "There is presently no information to suggest that republicans were involved in the murder of Ciaran Cummings."


It would be our belief at this stage that Ciaran was murdered by so-called loyalists

Sir Ronnie Flanagan

Police hunting the killers of the Catholic teenager are examining a black motorbike found at a garage in a loyalist area of Antrim.

They are trying to establish if it is the same one that was used as a getaway vehicle in the attack.

They also recovered two replica weapons, balaclavas and combat-style clothing during the search on the Ballycraigy estate.

Dissident loyalists

The police have said they are taking seriously a claim from the Red Hand Defenders that it carried out the murder.

Murder victim Ciaran Cummings
Ciaran Cummings was shot on his way to work
Mr Cummings was approached by two men on a black motorcycle and was shot several times. He died at the scene.

A person claiming to speak for the dissident loyalist group the Red Hand Defenders said it carried out the shooting.

Several loyalist groups, most notably the Loyalist Volunteer Force, have used the title of the Red Hand Defenders as a cover name.

The family's parish priest, Father John Murray, said the Cummings were struggling with their pain.

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See also:

05 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Security sources reject Trimble claims
05 Jul 01 | Northern Ireland
Police renew murder appeal
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