Man dies, 2 are injured in N. Ireland shootings

Slain 19-year-old's mother urges Catholic militias not to take revenge

July 23, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

DUBLIN, Ireland - A series of shootings Sunday night in Belfast, the Northern Ireland capital, left a man dead and two seriously injured, illustrating how quickly the province's sectarian divisions can turn violent.

Gerard Lawlor, 19, was shot and killed beside a road a few hundred yards from his family's house as he walked home alone from a pub just after midnight. The Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by Protestant paramilitary groups, claimed responsibility for the killing. Lawlor was a Roman Catholic.

Just a few hours before the killing, elsewhere in North Belfast, a Protestant teen-ager was shot in the groin; a Catholic man was shot in the thigh; and another Catholic survived a shooting attempt when his assailant's gun jammed.

Police said they had no evidence that the attacks on the Catholics were in retaliation for the attack on the Protestant youth, and no arrests have been made. While there is continuing low-level sectarian violence in Northern Ireland, there have been very few serious or deadly incidents in recent months.

Protestant loyalists, who want Northern Ireland to remain part of Britain, attacked several homes in Catholic neighborhoods over the weekend, hurling homemade gasoline bombs, smashing windows and injuring paramedics who arrived at one scene with a hail of bricks.

Republicans and nationalists, most of whom are Catholic, want the province to unite with the Republic of Ireland.

"There are going to be more sore hearts, I'm sure of that, as a result of injuries and perhaps further death," said the Rev. Dan White, who administered last rites to Lawlor. "But in the end, evil will be the loser."

Lawlor's mother called on republican paramilitary groups not to avenge her son's death and said she would pray for his killers.

"To all people of influence, I would ask them to get everybody together and get this problem sorted out," said the police superintendent, Roy Suitter, "because when a 12-year-old on one side of Belfast throws a stone, someone on the other side of Belfast ends up being killed. Somehow, somewhere, this has to stop."

Lawlor who lived with his mother and four brothers ages 10 to 20, had planned to move in with his girlfriend and 18-month-old son this week.

Sunday night he was wearing a soccer jersey for Celtic United, a Scottish team traditionally supported by Catholics, which might have led his killers to identify him as a target.

"No community grievance or political cause could ever justify this," said John Reid, Britain's secretary of state for Northern Ireland, calling the killing "beneath contempt."

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