Thousands Mourn Three Slain Catholics in Northern Ireland
CRAIGAVON, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Thousands of mourners gathered on Easter for the funeral of three Roman Catholics slain in a Protestant revenge attack only days after officials announced efforts to end sectarian violence.
Relatives and friends of Katrina Rennie, 16; Eileen Duffy, 19; and Brian Frizell, 29, walked behind the coffins through streets lined with black flags in Craigavon, a County Armagh town 20 miles southwest of Belfast.
St. Anthony’s Church was filled and hundreds others stood outside to hear the Rev. Tom McGuinness call on ″the ordinary people″ of the province to reject ″the men and women of violence.″
Last week, Northern Ireland’s political parties and the governments of Britain and Ireland announced they would begin talks this spring aimed at bringing peace and some degree of self-government to the battle-torn province.
But Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Irish Republican Army, was not invited to participate in the talks.
Police said two masked gunmen went into the mobile grocery store Thursday and opened fire on the two teen-agers. Frizell, who was about to enter the shop, was forced to lie on the ground and shot dead.
An anonymous telephone caller told police the killings were carried out by the Protestant Action Force, a name sometimes used by the outlawed paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force. He said the attack was a reprisal for the wounding of the widow of a policeman killed by the IRA.
Several men arrested Friday were being questioned about the Thursday murders.
Roman Catholic Bishop Francis Brooks said Catholics and Protestants were tired of the killings, which have claimed more than 2,800 lives since 1969.
He urged Sinn Fein supporters ″to call off their backing for the armed campaign, to resist the pressures to have retaliation for this deed.″
″The way of violence, the way of hatred, the way of retaliation, the way of seeking to intimidate, coerce or crush those who disagree with us - these are not the ways of Christian people,″ he said.
Out of respect for the mourning families in Craigavon, Sinn Fein canceled rallies in County Armagh to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Easter Rising - a failed revolt against British rule in Dublin in 1916.
The IRA, rooted in the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, has attacked army, government and civilian facilities in Northern Ireland, Britain and Europe in a campaign to bring an end to British rule in the province.