Northern Ireland

Sean Kelly released unconditionally

Sean Kelly
Image caption Sean Kelly at a previous protest outside PSNI headquarters in Belfast

Sean Kelly has been unconditionally released by police after being arrested and questioned about the shooting of a teenager in north Belfast.

Earlier, First Minister Peter Robinson said the arrest of the man convicted of the IRA Shankill bomb could have "grave consequences" for the political process.

Martin McGuinness, said it was "frankly ridiculous" to say it should threaten the political process.

The teenager remains in hospital.

Mr Robinson had called for a meeting with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.

He said he wanted to know how police are able to say that the shooting is not linked to paramilitaries.

The shooting was originally reported to be a paramilitary-style attack.

Then a police spokesman said that following inquiries, it was no longer being treated as such, but rather as a shooting.

In their latest statement, on Thursday afternoon, the PSNI is again referring to the shooting as "paramilitary-style".

In response to Mr Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The violence related to extreme loyalist protests in recent weeks represented a serious challenge to the political process. We in Sinn Féin kept our nerve.

"The assertion that this shooting in north Belfast, which I unreservedly condemn, and the facts of which are at this stage under PSNI investigation and are unclear, should threaten the political process, is frankly ridiculous.

"The DUP should keep their nerve."

Ulster Unionist justice spokesperson Tom Elliott expressed his concern that the police had given different statements with regard to the classification of the shooting.

"I am certainly very curious as to why the police would initially say that the shooting was 'paramilitary style', then reclassify it as not linked to paramilitaries once it was made known that Sean Kelly was being questioned, and then to change their story again after his release," he added.

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said he welcomed the "unconditional release" of Sean Kelly.

"The serious crimes branch of the PSNI has questions to answer in arresting a high-profile republican who has always supported the peace process," he said.

The 18-year-old was shot in both legs in Ardoyne on Tuesday night and was critically ill but is now in a stable condition in hospital.

'Own people'

On Thursday, on BBC NI's Nolan Show, the teenager's mother said she was "disgusted" at the shooting of her son.

She said he had been in the operating theatre for 10 hours and had been placed on a ventilator, but was now off it.

"The doctors say he was very lucky that he got to hospital when he did. He had lost a lot of blood," she said.

"I thought he was dead," she added, calling those who carried out the shooting "dirty rotten scumbags".

"He served his time. He was months in jail for the rioting then they have the cheek to go and shoot him. It is not their place, they are not judge and jury.

"People like that need locked up and put down. So much for the ceasefire. They are shooting their own people."

Image caption The teenager was found in a gateway between a shopping centre and a social club

Sean Kelly was convicted of the 1993 IRA bombing of a Shankill Road fish shop in which nine civilians died. He was given nine life sentences for his role in the bombing, but was released in July 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In July 2005, his licence was revoked by the then secretary of state for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain. There was evidence, said Mr Hain, that Kelly had become "re-involved in terrorism".

Ten days later, Kelly was released on the orders of Mr Hain, a move strongly condemned by unionists.

The release was ordered on the eve of a statement by the IRA.

At the time, Mr Hain said the IRA statement "created a new situation and thereby changed the context of my original decision to suspend Sean Kelly's licence".

"The government accepts that the statement by the IRA is intended to express an end to paramilitary activity and criminality," he said.

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