Unionist MP contrasts ‘impotence’ of PSNI over INLA assault rifle display with prosecution of man for Manchester funeral gunfire

A DUP MP has contrasted the action taken against a gunman who fired shots at an English funeral to the “impotence” of the PSNI when it comes to similar occurrences in Northern Ireland.

Saturday, 28th August 2021, 8:00 am
Updated Saturday, 28th August 2021, 2:43 pm
Mohammed Umar, 24, who was sentenced to six years and three months at Manchester Crown Court on Thursday for firing shots in a cemetery following a funeral. Photo: GMP/PA Wire

Gavin Robinson, the DUP spokesman for home affairs (and a trained barrister), was reacting to a six-year-and-three-month sentence imposed on Mohammed Umar in Manchester on Thursday.

Umar, aged 24, had appeared shortly after the funeral of gangland figure Clive Pinnock on April 23 last year, in the city’s Gorton Cemetery.

It is not exactly clear what prompted his gunfire.

The INLA firing shots in a display of strength in Londonderry on Friday August 20

But reportedly, as mourners congregated in the cemetery to drink and listen to music (in violation of Covid rules), Umar discharged several shots from a pistol.

Whatever his intention, mourners reacted by chasing Umar and beating him up, before police – who were monitoring the proceedings from a distance – intervened.

He pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, and possession of ammunition.

His sentencing came mere days after the latest controversy about the PSNI’s hands-off approach to paramilitaries.

Gavin Robinson: "There are similarities between this case and Londonderry. But the penalty of six years in prison stands in stark contrast to the impotent response from criminal justice in Northern Ireland"

Politicians had spoken out strongly after INLA hunger striker Michael Devine was commemorated by two masked paramilitaries firing Armalite-style assault rifles into the air in the Galliagh area of Londonderry on August 20.

Such displays are commonplace at republican events; just a week earlier, pictures circulated online purporting to show a gunman outside St Peter’s Cathedral in west Belfast, at the funeral of INLA man James McWilliams (although in that instance the PSNI have cast doubt over whether shots were fired).

At the time, superintendent Catherine Magee told the BBC that “it’s challenging to balance the requirements and needs of the community to have a commemoration, and to try and have a policing operation”.

She added: “We weren’t on top of the commemoration event as it was happening; as you might imagine, that in itself might create community tension.”

Whilst there are a number of differences between the INLA’s actions in Londonderry and Mohammed Umar’s behaviour in Manchester, Mr Robinson told the News Letter: “There are a number of similarities between this case and that which occurred in Londonderry last week.

“But the effective investigation and subsequent criminal sanction of six years in prison stands in stark contrast to the impotent – and oftentimes invisible – reaction and response we get from criminal justice in Northern Ireland.”

He added: “It’s glorification of terrorism, pure and simple.

“Now what we have in this country is an inability or unwillingness to deal with it comprehensively through the criminal justice system.”

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