23 January 2006

Republican hits out at Shankill match claim

Daily Ireland

Belfast man says reports designed to cause unease in loyalist area

Connla Young

A well-known Belfast republican has hit out at media reports claiming that he attended a soccer match on the city’s Shankill Road last week.
Ardoyne republican Eddie Copeland described as “rubbish” the press reports that he and his close friend Seán Kelly had travelled to watch Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club take on the ’66 Old Boys from the Shankill Road.
Mr Kelly was released from prison in 2000 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. He had been serving a sentence in connection with the 1993 Shankill Road bombing.
He was rearrested last June 18 after it was claimed he had breached his early-release conditions. The north Belfast man was held in Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim but was released on July 27.
Since the beginning of last December, Mr Copeland has received five warnings that his life is under threat.
A recent threat has linked the Belfast man to Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club.
Mr Copeland told Daily Ireland yesterday that he believed that the latest reports were designed to cause unease in the loyalist community.
“I think it was an attempt to wind people up. The people who were at that match know I wasn’t there and neither was Seán Kelly.
“I’m told there were about six people from Ardoyne at the game and, if myself or Seán had turned up, we’d have been noticed.
“This was meant to try and wind up people from that area. I think it was also meant to wind up the local loyalist leaders because a reference was made to them.
“There may also have been an element of putting the spotlight on Seán so that, at some stage down the line, they could use this as justification for lifting him again.
“There is another aspect to this. I have received a death threat that has linked me in with Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club.
“I have nothing to do with the team, and attempting to link them to me is not good for them and may put them under risk in the future,” he said.
Ardoyne Workingmen’s Club manager Stephen Mailey said the club had sought legal advice about press articles relating to what happened at the match.
“We have been to see a solicitor and will finalise details next week. This club works hard to keep young people off street corners and away from politics.
“The lives of 35 kids have been put in danger and we have parents ringing us to tell us they are worried,” said Mr Mailey.

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