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Monday, 22 July, 2002, 16:35 GMT 17:35 UK
Loyalist group admits murder
Scene of the murder
Flowers are placed at the scene of the killing
The loyalist paramilitary Red Hand Defenders has admitted murdering a man in north Belfast during a night of sectarian violence in the city.

The terror group - a cover name used by the Ulster Freedom Fighters and the Ulster Defence Association - said it shot dead a Catholic man near an interface area on Sunday night.

Security sources believe the killing was carried out by the UDA.

Gerard Lawlor
Gerard Lawlor: Shot as he walked home

Gerard Lawlor, 19, was shot near the Whitewell Road area of the city where sectarian tensions have been high in recent months.

The father-of-one was walking home alone from the Antrim Road towards the Whitewell Road when he was attacked at about midnight.

People close by heard four or five shots. The teenager died at the scene. The police are treating the incident as sectarian.

The victim's mother, Sharon, appealed for no retaliation. She said she would pray for those who killed her son.

She said Gerard had been planning to set up home with his girlfriend and 18-month-old son.

Superintendent Roy Suitters
Superintendent Roy Suitters: "Catalogue of mayhem" in north Belfast

Police Superintendent Roy Suitters said there was a "catalogue of mayhem in north Belfast" which ended in murder.

He appealed to community leaders in the area to exert their influence to help stop the violence.

And in Portadown, County Armagh, a family escaped injury in another gun attack.

Shots were fired at the house in Charles Street at about 0030 BST on Monday.


Earlier on Sunday evening, a Protestant teenager was shot and injured in the Glenbryn area of Ardoyne in north Belfast.

The 19-year-old victim was hit in the upper thigh when a gunman reportedly fired over the peace line from a Catholic area.

He was taken to the Mater Hospital in north Belfast where a spokeswoman described his condition as "ill but stable".

Then, a Catholic man was reportedly targeted outside a pub on the Oldpark Road by gunmen in a passing car but their gun jammed.

He was not injured but was taken to hospital suffering from shock.

Another Catholic man was shot in the upper thigh in the nationalist Oldpark area.

There were also reports of shootings on the Old Cavehill Road and the Ligoniel Road.

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid
John Reid: Condemned shootings

Northern Ireland Secretary John Reid said the shootings in north Belfast and the "vicious murder" of a young Catholic man were "beneath contempt".

The Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble, called on all paramilitaries to stop their violence immediately.

"The problem is that paramilitaries are still active when they should not be active and there is a clear responsibility on the government to respond to this and not simply stand on the sidelines," he said.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said it was a "dreadful catalogue of events" which ended in a "dreadful murder".

Deputy First Minister Mark Durkan, of the SDLP, called for an end to the recent violence which culminated in murder.

"I condemn without reservation the recent incidents of violence across Belfast which has now seen the sectarian murder of a young father in north Belfast and injuries caused to others," he said.


Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly said the murder was the "result of a week of orchestrated violence by the UDA".

He said the group had "deliberately been increasing tensions" ahead of the prime minister's expected statement on the state of the paramilitary ceasefires later this week.

There are going to be more sore hearts as a result of injuries and perhaps further death

Father Dan White

DUP councillor Nelson McCausland condemned the violence, but also criticised the government's handling of the situation.

Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen said: "Last night's sickening murder of Gerard Lawlor, a young innocent man shot dead in a cowardly drive-by attack, is a stark reminder of where savage sectarian hatred can lead."

Local priest Father Dan White said the entire community must unite against the killers.

"There are going to be more sore hearts, I'm sure of that, as a result of injuries and perhaps further death. But in the end, evil will be the loser," he said.

The chairman of the loyalist commission, Reverend Mervyn Gibson, said the killing seemed to have been in response to republican violence.

The Presbyterian minister said the commission, an umbrella group of loyalist paramilitaries, community workers and church groups, would now assess the situation.

The area has been the scene of frequent sectarian clashes in recent months - the nearby Holy Cross School was subjected to a loyalist picket last year.

The BBC's Annita McVeigh
"He had been looking forward to life with his girlfriend and baby son"
BBC NI's Yvette Shapiro
"The victim was walking home from a night out when he was shot"
SDLP councillor for north Belfast, Patrick Convery
"The peace process is the only way to go forward"
See also:

22 Jul 02 | N Ireland
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