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Suspects in killing of republican hardliner 'dinosaurs'

Dissident republican suspects in the killing of one of their former commanders in Belfast are "dinosaurs trapped in the past", the city's Lord Mayor said.

Ex-Continuity IRA (CIRA) figure Tommy Crossan, 43, was shot dead at a fuel depot in the grounds of an industrial complex in full view of surrounding houses. Three gunmen may have carried out the killing and a red BMW car was found on fire nearby.

Belfast Lord Mayor Mairtin O Muilleoir Credit: PA

First citizen Mairtin O Muilleoir of Sinn Fein said the killers existed in the dark margins of society but could not slow the pace of change in Belfast. He claimed: "They are dinosaurs trapped in the past and I urge everyone to work with the police to remove them from our streets."

Mr O'Muilleoir told BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight: "There are some micro groups of criminals masquerading under an assortment of republican labels. They have no support within the community."

Read: Former republican hardliner shot dead in Belfast

Former republican hardliner shot dead in Belfast

The man shot dead in Belfast this afternoon was a former leader of the hardline republican group the Continuity IRA.

Tommy Crossan headed the CIRA after splitting from the more mainstream Provisional IRA during the Northern Ireland peace process.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for Mr Crossan's death, although ti has been reported that he was the subject of death threats from some of his former republican allies.

A PSNI spokeswoman said: "Detectives from Serious Crime Branch have launched a murder investigation after a man was shot dead in the Springfield Road area of West Belfast."

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Villiers to call for new focus to heal divisions

In a speech today, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers is expected to call for a focus on paramilitaries rather than the police as part of future measures to heal divisions over the conflict. She is expected to say:

At least with a new process, agreed by Northern Ireland's political leaders, there is scope to write in from the start the need for an objective balance and with proper weight and a proportionate focus on the wrongdoing of paramilitaries...rather than the almost exclusive concentration on the activities of the state which characterises so many of the processes currently under way.

Theresa Villiers to call for focus on paramilitaries

The Northern Ireland Secretary is to call for "proportionate" focus on wrongdoing by republicans and loyalists rather than the police as part of future measures to heal divisions over the conflict.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers. Credit: Press Association

Many processes for addressing the legacy of the past - during which thousands were killed or maimed amid 30 years of bombings and shootings - have concentrated on the activities of security forces, Theresa Villiers will argue, rather than paramilitaries who were responsible for most cases.

The devolved ministerial Executive at Stormont is spending more than £30 million a year on historical matters, with police trawling hundreds of thousands of documents, in part to investigate shootings carried out by former officers or soldiers.

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McGuinness: Queen visit 'sends a message of change'

Martin McGuinness, speaking today.
Martin McGuinness said the move was an attempt "to stretch out the hand of friendship". Credit: UTV

Martin McGuinness has described his decision to attend a banquet hosted by the Queen as "an important thing to do" that sends "a message to everybody about how things have changed".

Speaking today, the Northern Irish Deputy First Minister and former IRA commander said that "both governments, who have been rather sluggish over the course of recent times, would do well to learn the lessons of what is happening here in the course of next week".

"They have a huge responsibility to play and unfortunately they haven't been playing it in the last number of months," he added.

Mr McGuinness, who shook the Queen's hand in an historic first meeting in June 2012, said: "We're not just involved in a peace process - we're also involved in a change process.

He added that his acceptance was "an attempt by me to stretch out the hand of friendship" to the unionist and loyalist communities of Northern Ireland.

Read: Martin McGuinness to attend banquet hosted by the Queen

Irish Taoiseach welcomes McGuinness royal banquet

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny welcomed the decision to invite Northern Ireland deputy Prime Minister Martin McGuinness as a special guest of the Queen during the first official state visit of the President of Ireland to England.

Read: Palace 'looks forward' to McGuinness visit

The former MP, who refused to sit in the House of Commons because he would have had to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen, previously did not attend a banquet in the Queen's honour at Dublin Castle in 2011.

Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr programmes, Mr Kenny said he did not see why the former IRA commander would not attend.

Mr Kenny also raised the prospect of a royal visit to Ireland during the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising, when Ireland declared its independence and revolted against British rule.

The Queen met and shook hands with Martin McGuinness in Belfast two years ago, in what was a historic step forward in Anglo-Irish relations.

More: Queen shakes Martin McGuiness' hand in Belfast

Tory MP: Sitting next to McGuinness 'uncomfortable'

A Conservative MP has said he would feel "uncomfortable" sitting next to Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, after it was announced that he would be a special guest of the Queen during a state banquet at Windsor Castle.

Conservative MP for Romford Andrew Rosindell Credit: PA

Andrew Rosindell said: "Whilst the man concerned has engaged in things in the past which have created appalling mayhem and tragedy, today we are looking at healing those rifts.

"I would feel very uncomfortable sitting beside him at dinner. I would have great difficulty doing that myself, but in terms of building a democratic foundation in Northern Ireland, I can understand why people feel this is what we need to do.

"But would I want to sit beside him at dinner? No, I certainly would not."

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