Prison officer Adrian Ismay’s funeral told of New IRA’s ‘dark deed’
Prison visits cancelled in Northern Ireland so that fellow officers could attend ceremony
Members of Adrian Ismay’s family, including his wife Sharon (right) leave the funeral at Woodvale Methodist Church in Belfast. Photograph: Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters.
Woodvale Methodist Church, on Cambrai Street just off the Shankill Road, and a church hall close by were full to capacity. Hundreds more gathered on the street outside for the funeral of Mr Ismay (52), who was fatally injured in a “New IRA” bomb attack earlier this month.
The chief mourners were Mr Ismay’s widow Sharon and their three daughters, Samantha, Sarah and Tori.
They were joined by a large number of Mr Ismay’s prison officer colleagues, politicians, PSNI officers, senior civil servants and other dignitaries for the service. Prison visits were cancelled in the North yesterday so that fellow officers could attend the ceremony.
TargetedThe Rev Colin Duncan, who led the service, said prison officers were concerned they should be targeted in such a murderous fashion. He said he recently held a meeting with Protestant and Catholic women and recalled one of the women lamenting the murder and saying, “Please God don’t let us go back to those days.”
Heart attackMr Ismay was released from hospital and appeared to be recovering well but died 11 days later from a heart attack directly related to the explosion. A man has appeared in court in connection with his murder.
“In the darkest part of night, probably dressed in dark clothes, dark men did a dark, dark deed, bringing us to this place today, leading to the loss of Izzy, causing us to travel through the valley of the shadow of death,” said Rev Anderson.
He said the overwhelming number of people abhorred what was done by the bombers. “We reject what you have done, we stand against what you have done, we want to build an inclusive peaceful society in Northern Ireland and your contribution to it we do not want,” he added.
Mr Ismay, a native of Carlisle in England and a prison officer since 1987, previously served in the British Royal Navy and saw action in the Falklands War.
Rev Anderson described him as a public servant who also assisted people through his work in St John’s Ambulance, the scouts and the community rescue service.
GenerousMr Ismay’s brother-in-law Ron Abrahams said the prison officer was a man who was generous to a fault. “He never distinguished people by race, religion or colour. He expected nothing of anyone that he didn’t expect of himself.”
Some dissident prisoners in Maghaberry Prison reportedly celebrated when they learned of Mr Ismay’s death. He is the second prison officer to have been murdered by the New IRA. The other victim was David Black who was shot dead in 2012.
PresentThe Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers attended the funeral as did DUP First Minister Arlene Foster, UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, Alliance leader and Minister of Justice David Ford, SDLP deputy leader Fearghal McKinney, and TUV leader Jim Allister. PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton was also present.
Several prison officers from the Republic, as well as from Britain, joined their colleagues from the Northern Ireland Prison Service at the service.
Separately, at lunchtime yesterday in Belfast city centre, hundreds of people attended a silent vigil organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to remember Mr Ismay.