Ahern urged to stop funding loyalist area

THE father of a teenager murdered in a loyalist area in north Belfast two years ago yesterday urged Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to withdraw the Government’s financial support for projects in the area.

Yesterday was the second anniversary of the death of 15-year-old Thomas Devlin, who was murdered in the Mount Vernon area as he walked home after buying sweets in the shop.

His father Jim Devlin revealed yesterday that he had written to the Mr Ahern pleading with him to rethink a decision to grant funding to a project in the area.

Mr Ahern has pledged €4,000 for grassroots development in the area.

However, the Taoiseach’s spokesman said that the money had been allocated some time ago and the Government was not in a position to withdraw it. The once-off grant was paid towards a commemoration of a local division that had participated in the first world war.

Mr Devlin, in his letter to Mr Ahern, sought a meeting to discuss the issue.

Mr Ahern’s spokesman confirmed that he had received the letter and said that the Taoiseach would reply to Mr Devlin.

Speaking at a press conference to mark the anniversary of Thomas’s death, Mr Devlin appealed to those with information to come forward.

“With funding goes responsibility and everyone in Northern Ireland wishes to move on but we expect them to actually move on. One of the ways of showing this to us is to hand over Thomas’s killers because this would be a perfect way of showing that they have moved on.”

At the press conference, Thomas’s mother, Penny Holloway, also appealed to the loyalist community in Mount Vernon to ‘shop’ or inform on her son’s killers.

She spoke out as police launched a new poster campaign directed at the Mount Vernon area, depicting Thomas’s parents holding a picture of their son and declaring: “If we knew who had murdered your child we’d call.”

At the same time a senior police officer revealed new “potentially significant” forensic examinations were being carried out on a number of items.

In the past two years, 12 people have been arrested and questioned, 77 searches mounted and more than 1,000 statements taken. But because of a wall of silence no one has been charged.

Two men are believed to have carried out the murder, one was leading a dog. They walked up behind Thomas and two friends, stabbing him to death and injuring one of the others.

In a direct appeal to the people of Mount Vernon, Penny Holloway said: “These men returned to their homes in Mount Vernon and were met by people who assisted in the cleaning and disposal of their clothes.”

Billy Hutchinson, a loyalist politician who works for the Mount Vernon Community Association, hit out at Mr Devlin’s call.

He said: “Why would these people not want the money to be given to a community organisation that is doing good work?”

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