Belfast murder. Suspected linked to drug gangs…

Just last week, we were celebrating the fact that there were no security-related deaths in NI for the first time since records began. But only 9 days into the new year, that streak has been broken with the shooting of Kevin Conway in Belfast on Tuesday night.

Alison Morris in the BelTel says he may be the 7th victim of a dissident republican hitman. From her article:

A dissident republican hitman may have claimed his seventh victim with the murder of Kevin Conway in Belfast on Tuesday evening.

Conway (26), who was on bail charged with the gangland killing of Shane Whitla, was shot multiple times in the west of the city just after 9.30pm.

He was a member of the notorious Co Armagh crime gang known as The Firm.

No getaway car was used and the killer or killers made off on foot into nearby Lenadoon.

It bears all the hallmarks of recent murders by the hitman, who sometimes acts alone, and at other times has an accomplice.

His father, also called Kevin, was murdered in 1998.

It is believed the IRA shot him over his involvement in petty criminality, although it never claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, over at the Irish News, Connla Young writes about ‘The Firm’, the gang linked to many of the recent murders. From her article:

The notorious narco-gang known as The Firm has been linked to murder and other criminal activity across parts of Co Armagh in recent years.

Said to comprise dozens of members, including men and women, it has emerged as one of the most ruthless cartels operating in the north.

With international links, it retains a tight grip on the flow of drugs across a large area of Co Armagh and beyond.

Unlike the majority of crime groups in the north, The Firm is known to draw members from across the community divide.

Several leading figures in the group come from republican and loyalist backgrounds, although they are not thought to be politically active.

It is believed the gang consists of around six leading figures who work closely to maintain a stranglehold on the supply of drugs in the area.

It is understood the gang has established supply routes via Albanian criminals based in Manchester and Spain.

It seems that Northern Ireland can’t escape the gang violence that plagues so many parts of the world. Given our high rates of poverty, mental health issues and trauma, there is a vast appetite for drugs out there. And with our troubles legacy, there is no shortage of people who will resort to murder. All very grim.

A reminder: this is an active police investigation, and we are not the Sunday World. Please do not start naming people in the comments. Stick to the facts.

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