Police Fire Rubber Bullets in Melee at IRA Funeral
LONDONDERRY, Northern Ireland (AP) _ Police fired plastic bullets to scatter a crowd of about 3,000 people when violence broke out at a funeral for two members of the outlawed Irish Republican Army.
The disturbances began after a hooded gunman fired six shots from a revolver during the funeral procession, police said. IRA guerrillas often fire honor salutes at funerals for their colleagues in defiance of the police.
The statement from the Royal Ulster Constabulary, Northern Ireland’s police force, said 23 policemen were injured in the fighting.
There were 10 civilian casualties - seven men and three women who were treated at hospitals for cuts and bruises, the police said.
After order was restored, the bodies of Eddie McSheffrey, 29, and Paddy Deery, 32, were buried. Officials said they were killed last week when a bomb they were carrying blew up.
″The police did everything possible to permit the funeral to proceed in a dignified and lawful manner, but once again Sinn Fein (the IRA’s legal political wing) and the IRA cynically exploited the situation,″ the police statement said.
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein president, said, ″We set out to bury these people with dignity and the people buried them with dignity. They defied the might of the British forces today.″
Before the procession, the huge crowd of mourners gained a reversal of a Roman Catholic church ban on Masses for IRA members with the coffins present on church grounds.
The Catholic bishop of Londonderry Edward Daly imposed the ban after shots were fired over a coffin at a Londonderry church during an IRA funeral last March.
He said such actions were ″a cheap parmilitary propaganda stunt″ and a desecration of a holy place.
But on Monday when the crowd carried the two coffins to the front of St. Eugene’s Cathedral priests said the Mass.
The predominantly Catholic IRA is sighting to unite this British province, where Protestants outnumber Catholics 3-2, with the overwhelmingly Catholic Irish Republic under a left-wing government.