by Peter Stanford
CARDINAL Cahal Daly, the Irish primate, said at the weekend that the security forces had questions to answer over the deaths of four IRA gunmen last week in the car park of a Coalisland church. While asserting that the four men, cornered after attacking a police station, were on an immoral operation, Cardinal Daly asked if they had been given a chance by the army to surrender and why only lethal gunfire was employed by the security forces in taking the IRA gang in the grounds of St Patrick's Church.
"Paramilitary organisations certainly do 'shoot to kill'. It is vital that security forces, in contrast, be seen at all times to observe the principles of minimum force and operate strictly within the limits of the law" said the Irish primate on Sunday.
Cardinal Daly had earlier visited the families of the four men killed to offer sympathy and pray with them in their time of grief. He gave his support to the Coalisland priest, Mgr Liam McEntegart who had demanded that Irish tricolours be removed from the coffins of Kevin O'Donnell and Sean O'Farrell, both 21, two of the dead, before their funeral services. While anxious not to cause any further pain to the bereaved, the cardinal said, the church was clear that paramilitary emblems and flags were not permitted within its walls.
He went on to criticise the police and the army for their heavy presence at the funerals. Their show of strength was "a disservice to the wider interests of the security forces themselves in their relationship with the community", he said. But at the same time, Cardinal Daly condemned those paramilitaries who tried to "exploit" the funerals for propaganda purposes.
Mgr McEntegart, after halting the cortege on the steps of the church for 25 minutes, eventually backed down over the draping of the two coffins with the Irish flag following pleas from the dead men's families. But his subsequent appeal to the men of violence to end their terrorist campaign prompted a walk-out by some 200 of the mourners Blinding the service.