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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 08:36 GMT 09:36 UK
Priest fears for missing man
Gareth O'Connor
IRA denied abducting Gareth O'Connor

A leading Catholic clergyman says he believes paramilitaries were involved in the disappearance of a father-of-two from Armagh.

Gareth O'Connor has not been seen since he left his home in the city on Sunday morning.

His family have claimed police had already warned them that the IRA may be targeting him because of alleged links with dissident republicans.

However, the IRA said in a statement it knew nothing about Mr O'Connor's whereabouts.

He had been due to report to Dundalk police station in the Irish Republic as part of his bail conditions on a charge of belonging to an illegal paramilitary group.

Monsignor Denis Faul said he believed an armed group was involved in Mr O'Connor's disappearance.

"What I'm really afraid of is that he will join the 'disappeared'," he said.

"I've spoken to his family about this, that they might never see him again. If he is dead, and we hope he is not, they might not be able to bury him.

Monsignor Denis Faul
What I'm really afraid of is that he will join the 'disappeared'
Monsignor Denis Faul

"I have been dealing with people who have been missing their dear ones for 28 years."

The Catholic Primate, Archbishop Sean Brady, took the unusual step on Monday night of appealing for information about the missing man.

It is understood that the archbishop took the extraordinary step of personally appealing for information about the missing man after his family appealed to local clergy.

His father said on Tuesday he believed his son was being held by the IRA.

"I am 100% certain that it is the Provisional IRA because he doesn't agree with them," said Mark O'Connor.

"Does that mean they are going to abduct the whole of Northern Ireland because they don't agree with them?"

A police spokesman said they had received a report that a man had gone missing but when officers tried to investigate, family members told them their assistance was no longer required.

The circumstances surrounding this matter are not clear but I want to reiterate the calls made by Archbishop Brady and Mr O'Connor's family for his safe return
Pat McNamee
Sinn Fein

In a statement released on Tuesday, the IRA said: "The IRA has no knowledge whatsoever concerning the disapperance or whereabouts of Gareth O'Connor."

Sinn Fein assembly member for Armagh, Pat McNamee, said he understood the O'Connor family's concern.

However, he said he did not believe Mr O'Connor had been abducted by the IRA.

"The circumstances surrounding this matter are not clear but I want to reiterate the calls made by Archbishop Brady and Mr O'Connor's family for his safe return," said Mr McNamee.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Monsignor Denis Faul:
"The main fear is that he has joined the ranks of the Disappeared"



SEE ALSO:
IRA denies abducting man
13 May 03  |  Northern Ireland


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