Politicians condemn fatal bomb attack on policeman


The murder of a newly-graduated PSNI officer outside his home in Omagh, County Tyrone has been condemned by the Irish and British governments, church leaders and cross-party representatives.

The victim Ronan Kerr (25) is 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. Mr Kerr graduated from a police training college last December.

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.

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 the attack which is being linked to dissident republicans.

This morning, Mr Baggott appealed for anyone with information on the murdered officer’s movements to come forward, especially if they had information on Mr Kerr’s car.

He said the vehicle was a black Ford Mondeo, registration PNZ 1114. He appealed for information on the attack and any other activity of this kind.

“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,” he said.

“We need good information.” The Chief Constable added: “My emotions are a deep sense of pride in Ronan, and the fact that he chose this career, knowing what the dangers were, that he chose to be a peacemaker and a peacekeeper.

“And he chose to that absolutely impartially from his community.”

The Chief constable also 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.

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

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.

Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said he is "disgusted" by bombers who killed a policeman yesterday. He said the murder would be rejected overwhelmingly" by the Irish people.

"For him to be killed in this way is something that I think will be rejected overwhelmingly by the vast majority of the people of Ireland," Mr McGuinness said in an interview on RTÉ radio today. "I am absolutely disgusted at this murder."

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.”

The Association of Garda Sergeants and Inspectors (AGSI) condemned the murder in the strongest possible terms.

“We stand shoulder to shoulder with our colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland and in the Police Federation of Northern Ireland in condemning this despicable, mean and cowardly act,” said general secretary Joe Dirwan.

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.”