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Murdered dissident’s mother in NYC protest

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Patrick Markey

The mother of a leading dissident republican killed in Belfast last month will picket a Manhattan fund-raiser for Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams to protest her son’s murder and call for an independent inquiry into the shooting.

Margaret O’Connor, whose son Joseph was shot in front of her Ballymurphy home in October, plans to hold a candlelight vigil outside the Sheraton New York Hotel, where the Sinn Fein president will host a fund-raising dinner.

More than a thousand guests are expected to attend Wednesday’s $500-a-plate dinner organized by the U.S. group Friends of Sinn Fein.

In an interview on Monday in New York, O’Connor’s mother said she hoped to lobby U.S. leaders to pressure Adams to agree to an independent inquiry.

"They helped us through the Troubles. I want to get an independent inquiry for my son," she said. "People out here would have more influence on Gerry Adams than anyone."

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Joseph O’Connor’s family believe he was shot to death by the mainstream Provisional IRA because he was a member of the splinter Real IRA, which is opposed to Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace deal.

O’Connor, who was 26, was shot multiple times by masked men on Oct. 13 outside his mother’s house in West Belfast. The killing has sparked fears of a feud between the two republican paramilitary groups that could scuttle Northern Ireland’s fragile peace.

The Real IRA emerged in 1997 from the ranks of dissatisfied IRA members critical of Sinn Fein’s decision to enter peace negotiations. In 1998, the dissident group detonated a car bomb in Omagh, which killed 29 people.

Although the Provisional IRA has denied any involvement in the O’Connor killing, his mother said other family members had recognized the gunmen as a local Provisional IRA unit. Her 4-year-old daughter also witnessed the shooting, she said.

At the family’s request, two former IRA members conducted an investigation into the killing and said they believed the Provisional IRA was behind the murder. Both men are opposed to Sinn Fein’s political direction but claim they do not support the Real IRA.

O’Connor said her family had since been threatened and harassed because of her son’s opposition to the Good Friday accords.

An "independent community inquiry" would establish the truth, halt a possible feud and also affirm the right to hold differing views, she said.

O’Connor has been accompanied in the United States by Martin Galvin, an associate of the 32 County Sovereignty Committee, which the U.S. State Department links politically to the Real IRA.

"I would ask for people to be left alone and let people have their freedom of speech. Let them have their own mind," O’Connor said. "Nobody wants to have a feud. We just want the truth."

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