Omagh, Co Tyrone: PSNI Officer Murdered By Booby-Trap Car Bomb: UPDATED

2 Apr

NEWS UPDATE:

Barry McColgan 04 April at 11:07 –
Sinn Féin condemns Pointless Killing of Ronan Kerr – Lynch

Sinn Féin Assembly Candidate for Fermanagh South Tyrone Sean Lynch has said that Sinn Féin condemns outright the pointless killing of Ronan Kerr, the young PSNI officer who was killed when a booby trap device placed on his car detonated in Omagh on Saturday evening.

Mr Lynch who sits on the DPP, and who is a former political prisoner strongly criticised those responsible, labelling it as absolutely futile, and insisted it would not stall the peace process nor prevent the progress of change that is taking place in policing, ‘change that people like Ronan were helping bring about’.

Sean knows Ronan’s family circle in Roslea, and some of them were present when Joint First Minister Martin McGuinness visited Mr Kerr’s family home on Saturday night.
Mr Lynch said,

“I would call on the people responsible for the attack in Omagh to explain their actions, how is this going to advance the cause for Irish re-unification, and peace and reconciliation in our country? Sinn Féin condemns outright the attack in Omagh, the killing of Ronan Kerr is an appalling desperate and pointless act, there is no justification or sense to what happened. It hasn’t and will not achieve anything other than devastate a family and a community. The peace process is solid, and the death of Ronan Kerr will do nothing but make all of us more resolute to continue the process of change in society and policing, the type of change that people like Ronan were helping bring about.”

“Times have changed, Sinn Féin have provided a clear and coherent strategy to pursue republican objectives through purely peaceful and democratic means. We would call on the people responsible for these acts to stop immediately.”

—————-

NEWS UPDATE:

BRITISH AND Irish security and intelligence sources are increasingly concerned at the technical capacity of dissident republican groups following Saturday’s murder of Constable Ronan Kerr in an under-car explosion in Co Tyrone.

They believe the dissidents are becoming increasingly sophisticated in their bomb-making capability, while the PSNI has described as “substantial” the device that killed Constable Kerr, a 25-year-old Catholic, in Omagh.

The PSNI, Garda and MI5 fear the dissidents are using under-car bombs that are miniature and more difficult to detect.

No group has yet admitted responsibility, but security sources believe that the Real IRA/Óglaigh na hÉireann amalgamation of dissidents was responsible.

Police carried out dawn searches of addresses in the Strathroy and Shergrim areas of Omagh, just a short distance from the murder scene, yesterday.

Local republicans believe the bombers did not come from the town itself where there is little or no support for dissident groups. Instead they suggest an attack may have been mounted by dissidents based in the Strabane area of Tyrone and across the Border in Donegal.

Dissident groupings are believed to have 600 to 800 members, with southern members providing logistical support for northern dissident units, including advanced engineering capability, according to senior security sources.

Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan spoke to PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott about the attack and anti-terrorist officers from both police forces are also liaising closely in an effort to identify the bombers.

While some initial reports suggested involvement in the attack of dissident republicans based in the Republic, security sources last night told The Irish Times this was “complete speculation”.

Other security sources said they believed the bombing was the work of dissident republicans based in the North, who clearly had accurate local knowledge of the area where the attack took place and on the location of Ronan Kerr’s home, the car he drove and his work shift patterns.

The alleged leader of Óglaigh na hÉireann, a middle-aged convicted terrorist, is based in the Republic and has a longstanding involvement with dissident republican groups. He is a former senior member of the Provisional IRA.

Constable Kerr’s mother, Nuala, said that the murder should not deter Catholics from joining the PSNI.

“This is at a time when we are striving for a neutral police force for the good of our country and I urge all Catholic members not to be deterred by this,” she said yesterday evening.

“We all need to stand up and be counted and to strive for equality.”

Sinn Féin has unambiguously denounced the killers, vowed the peace process would continue and called on Catholics to continue to support and to join the PSNI despite dissident violence directed against them.

“They should still join,” party president Gerry Adams said. “We need civic policing, we need community policing. There are risks in all that we do.

“All of us who are agents of change all run risks, so these communities, the community that I represent, right across the island, we need to have a sense of public service and that young nationalists and republicans can be part of that,” he said.

The PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott is today expected to emphasise that unless he has community support, particularly from nationalists and republicans, it will be difficult to find Constable Kerr’s killers.

He is joining First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at Stormont Castle to condemn the attack – in a similar manner to how they condemned the dissident murders two years ago of two British soldiers and a PSNI officer – a time when Mr McGuinness described the dissidents as “traitors”.

Ronan Kerr’s requiem Mass and funeral may be held in Omagh on Wednesday, subject to completion of a postmortem examination, which is due to be carried out later today.

———–

Nuala Kerr, the mother of murdered Catholic police officer Ronan Kerr, has tonight urged other Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police by his death and said his death should not be in vain.

Murdered policeman’s mother appeals to community

 Kerr family - Convey their grief
Kerr family – Convey their grief
 
Nuala Kerr, the mother of murdered Catholic police officer Ronan Kerr, has tonight urged other Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police by his death.

The grieving mother said: ‘this is at a time when we are striving for a neutral police force for the good of our country and I urge all Catholic members not to be deterred by this. We all need to stand up and be counted and to strive for equality.’

Nuala Kerr continued ‘we do not want to go back into the dark days again of fear and terror. We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for. Do not let his death be in vain.’

Mrs Kerr said she was also speaking on behalf of his two brothers Cathair and Aaron and loving sister Dairine. Their father Brian died some time ago.

She said ‘he was a wonderful son and brother, always had a smile and a helping hand for everyone. He had all the attributes of a great police officer – fair, empathetic, intelligent, humorous, a great communicator and loyal to all who knew him. And he just loved his work.’

Nuala Kerr said ‘I would like to appeal to the wider public for any information, no matter how small about this callous crime. Someone knows something. Would you please come forward and do the right thing so that justice can be done.’

The family were being comforted at the family home at Drumduff, near Omagh, this afternoon.

Ronan Kerr’s brother Aaron was travelling home from Australia for Mother’s Day and learned the news on a stopover in the United Arab Emirates when he checked Facebook.

Earlier, the Police Federation has said that the murder of Ronan Kerr in Omagh, will not deter others from joining the force.

Unionist and republican politicians in Northern Ireland have thrown their weight behind the hunt for bombers who killed Ronan Kerr, 25, hailed as a ‘peacemaker.’

Elsewhere, the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott paid tribute to the Mr Baggot described Ronan Kerr as a modern-day hero, adding that he had paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace.

Mr Kerr, who had graduated just three weeks ago, died after a device exploded under his car outside his home yesterday afternoon.

Dissident republicans are been blamed, but no group has as yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

At a news conference, Mr Baggott said tragedy had returned to Omagh and he appealed for public support in bringing those responsible to justice.

He said: ‘We have lost one of our brave and courageous police recruits, someone who joined this fine service simply to do good, joined to serve the community impartially and to be someone I describe as a modern-day hero.

‘I am immensely proud to be associated with my colleague Ronan, who has paid the ultimate price and sacrifice for the future of Northern Ireland.

‘We need these people to be given up. We need these people to be taken out of communities and given up so that justice can be done. We need good information.’

Mr Baggott added: ‘A mother has lost her brave son, made all the more horrific that it is Mothers’ Day today.

‘I can’t imagine what they are going through, but I saw their grief at first hand last night.’

The explosion happened as the officer got into his car in the residential Highfield Close development, off the main Gortin Road.

It is understood Mr Kerr was leaving to start a shift at Enniskillen police station, Co Fermanagh, when he was killed.

The 25-year-old was one of four children and had two brothers and a sister.

One of his brothers is returning home from Australia and learned of the murder while travelling. He is due to arrive into Dublin Airport today.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the Kerr home in Beragh, Co Tyrone last night and said Mr Kerr was a credit to his family and his community.

Widespread condemnation of bomb attack

The murder has been condemned by politicians at home and abroad.

President Mary McAleese said she was deeply shocked and saddened by the attack.

‘This heinous crime will not succeed in its evil intent of destroying the peaceful and democratic future to which the people of Northern Ireland are so clearly committed.’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the bomb attack as a heinous and pointless act of terror.

He said: ‘Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past. They are acting in defiance of the Irish people.’

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the young officer had dedicated himself to serving the entire community of Northern Ireland.

‘Those who carried out this wicked and cowardly crime will never succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to a dark and bloody past,’ he warned.

‘Their actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people from all parts of the community.’

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson urged young Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police ‘by those who have nothing to offer our society’.

He said the people of Co Tyrone will unite behind the family of Mr Kerr.

Mr McGuinness said the perpetrators had ‘betrayed the community’ and had ‘no role to play in our future’.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr McGuinness said the killing will be rejected by the vast majority of people and it was everybody’s duty and responsibility to assist the police on both sides of the border.

Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford said he spoke for all Assembly parties in condemning the ‘callous’ murder

Mr Ford said: ‘Not only do I do that on behalf of the people of Northern Ireland, but on behalf of the southern government as well.

‘It is absolutely clear that the small number of people intent on carrying out acts of terrorism stand totally against the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Ireland, north and south.’

The Ulster Council of the GAA has condemned the murder of 25-year-old Catholic police officer killed in a car bomb attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Ronan Kerr was a member of the local GAA club in Beragh.

‘Futile’ attempt to destroy progress – Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the attack is ‘a futile attempt to destroy the progress that has been made’ in the peace process.

He said: ‘This action and those responsible for it must be totally rejected. I am calling upon those involved to stop and to stop now.’

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whose husband, former president Bill Clinton, played a major role in the peace process, said her government strongly condemned the murder in Omagh.

‘The perpetrators of this cowardly act represent the failures of the past and their actions run counter to the achievements, aspirations, and collective will of the people of Northern Ireland,’ she said.

‘We echo the unequivocal condemnations by Northern Ireland’s politicians and call on anyone with information to co-operate fully and expediently with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.’

NEWS UPDATE:

NI Manhunt After Car Bomb Murders Policeman ...

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has paid tribute to the 25-year-old Catholic police officer killed in a car bomb attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

 Matt Baggott - Said Ronan Kerr paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace
Matt Baggott – Said Ronan Kerr paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace
 

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott has paid tribute to the 25-year-old Catholic police officer killed in a car bomb attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Mr Baggot described Ronan Kerr as a modern-day hero, adding that he had paid the ultimate sacrifice for peace.

Mr Kerr, who had graduated just three weeks ago, died after a device exploded under his car outside his home yesterday afternoon.

Dissident republicans are been blamed, but no group has as yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

At a news conference, Mr Baggot said tragedy had returned to Omagh and he appealed for public support in bringing those responsible to justice.

He said: ‘We have lost one of our brave and courageous police recruits, someone who joined this fine service simply to do good, joined to serve the community impartially and to be someone I describe as a modern-day hero.

‘I am immensely proud to be associated with my colleague Ronan, who has paid the ultimate price and sacrifice for the future of Northern Ireland.’

The explosion happened as the officer got into his car in the residential Highfield Close development, off the main Gortin Road.

It is understood Mr Kerr was leaving to start a shift at Enniskillen police station, Co Fermanagh, when he was killed.

The 25-year-old was one of four children and had two brothers and a sister.

One of his brothers is returning home from Australia and learned of the murder while travelling. He is due to arrive into Dublin Airport today.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness visited the Kerr home in Beragh, Co Tyrone last night and said Mr Kerr was a credit to his family and his community.

Widespread condemnation of bomb attack

The murder has been condemned by politicians at home and abroad.

President Mary McAleese said she was deeply shocked and saddened by the attack.

‘This heinous crime will not succeed in its evil intent of destroying the peaceful and democratic future to which the people of Northern Ireland are so clearly committed.’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny described the bomb attack as a heinous and pointless act of terror.

He said: ‘Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past. They are acting in defiance of the Irish people.’

British Prime Minister David Cameron said the young officer had dedicated himself to serving the entire community of Northern Ireland.

‘Those who carried out this wicked and cowardly crime will never succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to a dark and bloody past,’ he warned.

‘Their actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people from all parts of the community.’

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson urged young Catholics not to be deterred from joining the police ‘by those who have nothing to offer our society’.

Mr McGuinness said the perpetrators had ‘betrayed the community’ and had ‘no role to play in our future’.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton whose husband, former president Bill Clinton, played a major role in the peace process, said her government strongly condemned the murder in Omagh.

‘The perpetrators of this cowardly act represent the failures of the past and their actions run counter to the achievements, aspirations, and collective will of the people of Northern Ireland,’ she said.

‘We echo the unequivocal condemnations by Northern Ireland’s politicians and call on anyone with information to co-operate fully and expediently with the Police Service of Northern Ireland.’

Meanwhile, a man whose son died in the Omagh bombing of 1998 has branded the latest murderous attack in the town a ‘double insult’.

Michael Gallagher lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in the dissident republican Real IRA blast which killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.

He condemned yesterday’s killing of a young policeman and said the decision to once again target the Co Tyrone town would revive horrific memories.

He said: ‘This is a double insult. Omagh will be a very sad place.

‘They have changed an entire family and family circle forever. That is the reality of what has happened here.

‘I feel a lot of anger that another young life has been stolen, and that this has happened again in our town.’

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness will discuss the murder of Ronan Kerr on Radio One’s This Week at 1pm

NEWS UPDATE:

PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has held crisis talks with British prime minister David Cameron, Northern Secretary Owen Paterson and Stormont justice minister David Ford after dissident republicans murdered a newly-graduated PSNI officer outside his home in Omagh, County Tyrone.

The victim has been named locally as Ronan Kerr (25), a Catholic who lived at Highfield Close on the Gortin Road on the outskirts of the town.

He died when a device placed under his car exploded shortly before 4pm yesterday. He died shortly afterwards.

Mr Kerr had graduated from training college last December and was living in Omagh.

He was a former pupil of the Christian Brothers Grammar School in Omagh and was targeted outside his home as he left to start a shift at Enniskillen Police Station in County Fermanagh, about 30 miles from his home in Tyrone.

Chief constable Matt Baggott paid tribute to his colleague.

“We have lost one of our brave and courageous police recruits, some one who joined this fine service simply to do good, joined to serve the community impartially and to be someone I describe as a modern-day hero,” he said.

Supt Pauline Shields said: “He has literally been with us for weeks.

“In those few weeks that he has served this community he has made an indelible mark on those colleagues and those members of the public with whom he has come into contact.”

The Omagh fun run, with 2,000 competitors had passed the scene an hour before the device exploded.

Neighbours in the small housing development rushed to help the young police officer and some used fire extinguishers in an attempt to save him.

The victim is the second officer to be murdered since the PSNI was established in 2001.

Stephen Carroll was shot dead by a Continuity IRA as he answered a call in Craigavon, Co Armagh in March 2009. He too was a Catholic.

Condemnation of the atrocity from politicians and the four main church leaders was swift and wide-ranging.

Cardinal Sean Brady said: “I implore the perpetrators of this shameful killing to realise the futility of their actions, and to call off this senseless campaign.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the murder was a “heinous and pointless act of terror”.

“Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past. They are acting in defiance of the Irish people. They must know that they can never succeed in defeating the democratic will of the people,” he said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said: “Those behind such violence have no mandate and are acting contrary to the democratic will of the people of Ireland, North and South.

President Mary McAleese said: “This heinous crime will not succeed in its evil intent of destroying the peaceful and democratic future to which the people of Northern Ireland are so clearly committed.”

Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “It was a young man who was bravely entering the police service, recognising that he was putting his life on the line.

“I have absolutely no doubt the overwhelming number of people in NI want to move on. It’s only a few Neanderthal who want to go back. They will not drag us back to the past.”

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “I want to condemn what happened in Omagh this afternoon. I want to send my condolences to his family at this hugely traumatic time.”

British prime minister David Cameron said: “I utterly condemn the murder of a young police officer today in Omagh, who had dedicated himself to serving the entire community of Northern Ireland.

“I know that the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland will not rest until the perpetrators have been brought to justice.

“For our part, the British government stands fully behind the Chief Constable and his officers as they work to protect Northern Ireland from terrorism. And we, with our partners in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government, stand four square behind the people of Northern Ireland who have said time and again they want a peaceful, shared future.”

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said: “The callous murder of this young officer will come as a great shock to the local community and my thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

Northern Secretary Owen Paterson, said the murder was “an evil act, carried out by enemies of the whole community”.

“The people in all parts of Ireland and beyond want peace and those who carried out this atrocity are in the grip of an obscene delusion if they think that by murder they can defy their will,” he said.

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie said: “This has not only stunned the people of Omagh, it has stunned the entire country. This is not what the people want. They cannot be allowed to continue their campaign.”

—————-

A PSNI officer has been killed, when a device exploded under a car in the Highfield Close area of Omagh, Co Tyrone.

Crime scene - Policeman's car destroyed

 Crime scene – Policeman’s car destroyed

 Housing estate - Where police officer lived
 Housing estate – Where police officer lived
 
 PSNI - Investigates
 PSNI – Investigates

A PSNI officer has been killed, when a device exploded under a car in the Highfield Close area of Omagh, Co Tyrone.

The 25-year-old man was killed when the device exploded under his Ford Mondeo outside his home just before 4pm today as he left for work.

The victim is understood to have recently graduated from the PSNI training college.

He was in the car alone when neighbours rushed to the scene seconds after the bomb exploded.

About 2,000 people taking part in the Omagh Half Marathon passed the entrance to the estate just hours before the blast.

Reaction

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said ‘I utterly condemn today’s horrific bomb attack in Co Tyrone. This was a heinous and pointless act of terror. Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past.’

Enda Kenny continued, ‘they are acting in defiance of the Irish people. They must know that they can never succeed in defeating the democratic will of the people. ‘

Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson has said it was an evil act by a miniscule group that wanted to drag us back into the past but that the community would unite against such violent threats.

Peter Robinson has appealed to people with information to come forward so that those behind the attack could be brought to justice.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has condemned the ‘wicked and cowardly’ bomb attack and said that the perpetrators were trying to take Northern Ireland back to a ‘dark and bloody past’, and the authorities would ‘not rest’ until they were caught.

Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore has condemned the actions of those responsible for the attack. He said that ‘those behind such violence have no mandate and are acting contrary to the democratic will of the people of Ireland, north and south.’

The Minister for Justice Alan Shatter has described the killing as disgraceful and said the revulsion felt among members of An Garda Siochana would reinforce the determination to do
everything possible to counteract the threats posed by dissident groups.

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams, TD, has said ‘Sinn Féin is determined that those responsible will not set back the progress of the Peace and Political Process.’

Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland Cardinal Seán Brady has said that ‘the deliberate taking of innocent human life is always wrong.

Cardinal Seán Brady continued, ‘I implore the perpetrators
of this shameful killing to realise the futility of their actions, and
to call off this senseless campaign.’

Presbyterian Moderator Dr Norman Hamilton has said ‘the courage and commitment of the PSNI officer who has given his life are the qualities we all must show, as we continue to build our shared future together and banish hatred and killing to the past.’

Most Revd Alan Harper, Archbishop of Armagh, and the Rt Revd Ken Good, Bishop of Derry and Raphoe have said ‘we are resolved as Christian people to come together with all our neighbours in this community, regardless of politics or background.’

They continued ‘we are building a community where hatred has no place and in which political difference will never be successfully addressed with violence.’

The area has been sealed off and the PSNI are investigating.

NEWS UPDATE:

PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has held crisis talks with British prime minister David Cameron, Northern Secretary Owen Paterson and Stormont justice minister David Ford after dissident republicans murdered a newly-graduated PSNI officer outside his home in Omagh, County Tyrone.

The victim has been named locally as Ronan Kerr (25), a Catholic who lived at Highfield Close on the Gortin Road on the outskirts of the town.

He died when a device placed under his car exploded shortly before 4pm. He died shortly afterwards.

The Omagh fun run, with 2,000 competitors had passed the scene an hour before the device exploded.

Neighbours in the small housing development rushed to help the young police officer and some used fire extinguishers in an attempt to save him.

He is understood to have qualified as a PSNI officer only in recent weeks and was stationed in Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh about 30 miles from his home in Tyrone.

The victim is the second officer to be murdered since the PSNI was established in 2001.

Stephen Carroll was shot dead by a Continuity IRA as he answered a call in Craigavon, Co Armagh in March 2009. He too was a Catholic.

Condemnation of the atrocity from politicians and the four main church leaders was swift and wide-ranging.

Cardinal Sean Brady said: “I implore the perpetrators of this shameful killing to realise the futility of their actions, and to call off this senseless campaign.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said the murder was a “heinous and pointless act of terror”.

“Those who carried it out want to drag us back to the misery and pain of the past. They are acting in defiance of the Irish people. They must know that they can never succeed in defeating the democratic will of the people,” he said.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said: “Those behind such violence have no mandate and are acting contrary to the democratic will of the people of Ireland, North and South.

President Mary McAleese said: “This heinous crime will not succeed in its evil intent of destroying the peaceful and democratic future to which the people of Northern Ireland are so clearly committed.”

First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson said: “It was a young man who was bravely entering the police service, recognising that he was putting his life on the line.

“I have absolutely no doubt the overwhelming number of people in NI want to move on. It’s only a few Neanderthal who want to go back. They will not drag us back to the past.”

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said: “I want to condemn what happened in Omagh this afternoon. I want to send my condolences to his family at this hugely traumatic time.”

British prime minister David Cameron said: “I utterly condemn the murder of a young police officer today in Omagh, who had dedicated himself to serving the entire community of Northern Ireland.

“I know that the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland will not rest until the perpetrators have been brought to justice.

“For our part, the British Government stands fully behind the Chief Constable and his officers as they work to protect Northern Ireland from terrorism. And we, with our partners in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish Government, stand four square behind the people of Northern Ireland who have said time and again they want a peaceful, shared future.”

Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said: “The callous murder of this young officer will come as a great shock to the local community and my thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues at this time.”

Northern Secretary Owen Paterson, said the murder was “an evil act, carried out by enemies of the whole community”.

“The people in all parts of Ireland and beyond want peace and those who carried out this atrocity are in the grip of an obscene delusion if they think that by murder they can defy their will,” he said.

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie said: “This has not only stunned the people of Omagh, it has stunned the entire country. This is not what the people want. They cannot be allowed to continue their campaign.”

NEWS UPDATE:

Police Service of Northern Ireland officers secure the area close to where a police officer was killed in a under car bomb at his house in Omagh, Nort
AP – Police Service of Northern Ireland officers secure the area close to where a police officer was killed …

 
By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press :

DUBLIN – A 25-year-old Catholic policeman who had just joined Northern Ireland’s police force was killed Saturday when a booby-trap bomb exploded as he got into his car, police and neighbors said.

No group claimed responsibility. But police and politicians universally blamed Irish Republican Army dissidents who have repeatedly planted bombs underneath the private cars of off-duty police officers, particularly new Catholic recruits, in a bid to stop cross-community support for law and order.

Until Saturday, such booby-trap attacks had badly maimed two other officers but killed nobody. It was the first lethal attack on Northern Ireland security forces in more than two years.

The IRA dissidents have stressed their determination to target any Irish Catholics who join the Northern Ireland police force. Building Catholic support for the once Protestant-dominated police force is a central goal of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

“Those who carried out this wicked and cowardly crime will never succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to a dark and bloody past,” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in London.

And reflecting the exceptional political solidarity in Northern Ireland today, leaders from both the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of the community condemned the bombers and vowed to bring them to justice.

“While those behind this act seek to promote division and conflict, let us state clearly: They will fail,” said Sinn Fein deputy leader Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander who is the senior Catholic in Northern Ireland’s four-year-old unity government. “The process of peacebuilding will continue and the community is united in rejection of them.”

In Dublin, newly elected Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny called the killing “a heinous and pointless act of terror.”

And his justice minister, Alan Shatter, vowed that “no effort will be spared in bringing the perpetrators of this dreadful crime to justice.” Many of the IRA dissidents live along the border in the Republic of Ireland.

Neighbors of the victim in Omagh — a town synonymous with the greatest horror of the entire Northern Ireland conflict — said he had just entered his car when the bomb detonated beneath his legs.

IRA dissidents committed the deadliest single bombing of the entire Northern Ireland conflict in Omagh on Aug. 15, 1998, when a car bomb detonated amid a crowd of evacuated shoppers and workers. Twenty-nine people, mostly women and children, were killed.

No dissident was ever successfully prosecuted for that attack, so the 1998 attackers remain at large.

“I feel a lot of anger that another young life has been stolen, that this has happened again in our town,” said Michael Gallagher, whose only son, 21-year-old Aiden, was among the dead in 1998.

The car sustained little damage but caught fire, and neighbors doused the flames with extinguishers. They identified the victim as Ronan Kerr, said he had just graduated from the police academy last month, and lived with his mother.

Several IRA splinter groups remain active in Northern Ireland. Anti-terrorist authorities estimate they have fewer than 500 members combined and no capacity to mount a sustained campaign of violence, only an occasional ability to kill. Police say the dissidents fund their activities through local rackets, including fuel and cigarette smuggling.

In March 2009, dissidents shot to death two off-duty British soldiers and a policeman. Last year, they detonated half a dozen car bombs outside security installations, businesses and a courthouse but caused little damage and wounded nobody seriously.

In the 1980s, IRA weapons engineers designed under-car booby trap bombs specifically to kill the driver. They typically were attached with magnets on the outside of the car, under the driver’s seat and would detonate when the car drove up or down a slope.

But in Saturday’s attack, the bomb appeared to explode immediately after the target got into the car.

Since 2007, IRA dissidents have planted dozens of such booby-trap bombs under the private cars of police officers. Most bombs failed to detonate, and several dud devices fell off onto roadways. Two policemen did lose their legs in such attacks in May 2008 and January 2010.

Northern Ireland’s police force has been radically transformed over the past decade in a major success for the peace process. A policy of favoring Catholic recruits helped to turn the force from 8 percent Catholic in 2001 to 30 percent Catholic today.

But Catholic recruits remain particularly vulnerable to attacks by IRA dissidents, who chiefly live in working-class Catholic areas. Catholic police officers are unable to live or safely visit relatives in those areas.

The IRA killed nearly 1,800 people in a failed 1970-1997 campaign to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom. Most IRA members renounced violence and disarmed in 2005. Those peace moves cleared the way in 2007 for Protestants and Catholics, led by Sinn Fein, to forge a coalition government of former foes.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: