NI murder condemned ahead of North-South council meeting


THE MURDER of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black which prompted widespread condemnation yesterday is likely to be raised early in the meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Armagh today.

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny is expected to convey his sympathy on behalf of the Government to First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the meeting in Armagh.

The meeting will be attended by Ministers from Stormont and Dublin including Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore who yesterday spoke for “every decent man, woman and child on this island, North and South, in expressing revulsion at this act”.

“There will be no return to the dark and violent days of the past. The tragic loss of life that we have seen [yesterday] serves only to bring us together in a shared grief and a shared determination to work together in building a better future for all,” he added.

First Minister Mr Robinson described the killers as “flat-Earth fanatics” and “deviants”.

In a joint statement he and Mr McGuinness said, “There can be no justification for this brutal attack as this man was going about his daily life. People who work for the Prison Service play a crucial role in our community and any attack on them is an attack on all of us.

“Actions like this have no place in society and those who carried out this murder have nothing positive to contribute and we refuse to let the people behind this attack divert us from building a better and peaceful future for everyone. We appeal to anyone with any information on this murder to contact the PSNI,” they added.

British prime minister David Cameron said Mr Black had been brutally murdered as he went about his work keeping the people of Northern Ireland safe.

“The government I lead will do whatever we can to help the PSNI bring the perpetrators to justice. These killers will not succeed in denying the people of Northern Ireland the peaceful, shared future they so desperately want,” he said.

The SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said Mr Black’s “murder marks out the very worst and darkest side of human nature – a side which civilised people banish from their hearts and their societies”.

“The slaughter of a man who left his family in the full expectation of seeing them again that night is a disgrace to democracy and a true human tragedy. The people of Ireland rejected violence long ago and they will continue to reject it today,” he added.

The Alliance Minister for Justice David Ford in condemning the murder said he was briefed on the shooting by the PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott and the director general of the prison service Sue McAllister, and had also spoken about the attack to Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness.

“This is a horrific murder, for which there can be no justification and will be rightly condemned by all across Northern Ireland,” he said. “At its very core this is a human tragedy. A man has lost his life this morning and a family are grieving the loss of their loved one. My thoughts are also with the wider prison service family,” added Mr Ford.

“It is important that anyone with any information, who saw anything suspicious, reports it to the police or through Crimestoppers immediately. We need to respond to this horrific act by bringing those responsible to justice,” he said.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt expressed his “profound condolences” to the dead man’s family. “Those who have carried out this attack on an innocent man represent the past and have nothing to offer the men, women and children of this country who have long since rejected terrorism,” he said.

“At this stage I would ask people to focus on supporting this man’s family and that if anyone has information regarding this attack, to contact the Police Service of Northern Ireland,” added Mr Nesbitt.