Updated: Former IRA man Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison shot dead in South Belfast…

Well, we generally don’t do news items these days, but this is a potentially interesting* development. Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison has been shot dead in a south Belfast street.

Mr Davison is from a large Republican family and was one of those suspected of involvement in the killing Robert McCartney. The timing and the nature of the killing are just plain odd.

To paraphrase the academic Diego Gambetta it looks like “criminals of the honest sort” are sending signals.

* This particular choice of language has triggered a strong emotional reaction in many who feel it was insensitive framing so shortly after the man’s killing. My actual personal view is here.

Additional comment:

I must admit that I’ve been somewhat puzzled by the idea people (and more than just a few individuals) have assumed I was referring to the deceased in my use of the Gambetta quote.

That it  comes on the anniversary of Bobby Sands’ death means it also could be seen as some kind of calculated insult on top of insult. At risk of demonstrating the folly of going to print too hastily, let me try to clarify.

It was not my intention to signal what some in the comment zone have referred to as Ordinary Decent Criminals (ODCs) as it is commonly interpreted in NI. Rather Gambetta’s seminal work focuses on how people communicate in areas beyond the law.

It includes politicians, security agencies and even authorities in higher education, as well as organised crime. The quote comes from chapter one of Codes of the Underworld, which discusses how people acting outside the law often resort to action rather than words, which can be broken or gone back on.

Now granted, I did leave that open to a lot of interpretation, and accordingly it may have been a mistake not to have taken more time to iron out and make clear exactly what I meant by it.

But in fact contrary to ascribing blame to the victim (which I know has become pretty commonplace in Belfast politics recently), I thought I was pointing to the perpetrators.

It was a clumsy and thoughtless form of wording. I genuinely apologise for any offence, given or taken.