Further dissident republican activity?
In the aftermath of the Antrim murders, is another serious dissident republican attack being overlooked?
These are unconfirmed reports from Ballymena, a centre of dissident activity in the past and a town deeply marked by sectarian division that led, amongst other events, to the murder of Michael McIlveen, the perpetrators of which were recently found guilty.
It appears that in the early hours of this morning, a man was very seriously attacked by two, possibly more, other men on Ballymoney St in the town centre. He is now in hospital, apparently in the intensive care unit. This morning the scene of the attack had been cordoned off by police, presumably to allow for forensic analysis. It is suggested that the man’s family have been recommended to come over from their home in England, perhaps indicative of the gravity of the victim’s condition.
It has been suggested that the two attackers were part of a larger group of ten to fifteen young men who had been drinking in the town yesterday [Saturday] evening. There are suspicions that this group form local sympathisers, if not more, of the Continuity IRA. There are also suggestions that the group remain angered at the death of Michael McIlveen, and may have gone against the wishes of the family, who “repeatedly called for no retaliation following the murder.”
There was previously controversy in the town when charges against five suspected Real IRA activists were dropped to protect an informer. More recently, indications of the divisions within republicanism became apparent when Sinn Féin MLA Daithí McKay was assaulted in the town’s Dunclug estate.
This afternoon, two men who claimed to be friends of the victim were making enquiries around bars in the town centre. They gave confused stories about their background and relation to the events, and it is from them that that the information regarding the victim’s current condition emanates.
There is concern that the men may be related to loyalist paramilitaries in the area. Ballymena is an overwhelmingly Protestant town and anger must be intense at the two murders which took place last night, as well as this potentially fatal assault. Community relations are uncomfortable at best, and if this event is as it seems, much work will be required to keep further violence from occurring.
Given the sources, the above should be treated with caution. There have been no media reports of the attack.