Shots were fired over the coffin of an IRA killer today in a blatant display of paramilitarism by dissident republicans.
Four men wearing balaclavas and paramilitary uniform appeared beside the coffin of John Brady, 40, outside his sister’s home in Strabane, Co Tyrone, and fired a volley of shots in the air.
Brady hanged himself in a police cell last Saturday after being arrested over a domestic dispute while on weekend parole from prison – it was said he could not face the prospect of returning to jail.
Between 300 and 400 people gathered outside the house for what was a full scale paramilitary funeral with all the traditional trappings.
The coffin was draped in the tricolour and topped with a black beret and gloves during the show of strength watched by the dead man’s family in a small courtyard in front of the terraced house.
A guard of honour of some 50 men in white shirts and black ties and trousers lined the route from the house.
On the evening before the funeral four dissident republicans, uniformed and with faces covered by balaclavas, stood guard beside the open coffin inside the house.
There were no police in evidence in the vicinity of the paramilitary display but a police helicopter hovered a short distance away.
Following the funeral service at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Strabane Brady was due to be buried across the border at Doneyloop cemetery in Co Donegal where his father is interred.
The paramilitary display was the first of its kind in several years and was laid on for a man who went from the mainstream IRA to join the dissidents.
Brady was jailed in 1991 after pleading guilty to murdering Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve Constable David Black in a car bomb attack near Strabane.
He was freed in 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement’s early release scheme, but was returned to custody five years later after breaking the terms of his licence.
Last year he was accused of leaving a bomb under the car of a former Royal Irish Regiment soldier in Sion Mills, Co Tyrone in a dissident republican murder bid seven years ago.
However, the case was dropped after concerns about ’low copy’ DNA were highlighted in the Omagh bomb trial of a fellow dissident.
Elsewhere in Co Tyrone, police said today they had arrested a man in the Omagh area in connection with dissident republican activity.
The suspect was taken into custody last night and is being questioned by officers from the Serious Crime Branch at Antrim police station.