Billy McKee, Former IRA leader dies aged 97.
Veteran Belfast republican Billy McKee has died.
Born in 1921, he was an active member of the republican movement having joined the IRA’s youth wing, Na Fianna hÉireann, in 1936 at the age of 15. He was imprisoned in every decade between the 1930s and the 1970s.
Mr McKee was a founding member of the Provisional IRA and became its first Officer Commanding in Belfast.
In 1970 he was one of several republicans who defended St Matthew’s Church in the Short Strand area of east Belfast from loyalists in what became known as the Battle of St Matthews.
In later years he was a fierce critic of Sinn Féin’s peace strategy.
In a May 2011 interview with the Irish News Mr McKee defended some of the IRA’s worst atrocities including Bloody Friday and the murder of mother-of-10 Jean McConville.
He claimed Mrs McConville was an informer who ignored repeated warnings to stop.
He also criticised the Sinn Féin leadership for “demonising” anyone who would not condemn the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr.