Ronan Kerr funeral takes place

 

Religious, civic, political and sporting figures have joined hundreds of local people in the Tyrone village of Beragh for the funeral of the PSNI officer murdered last Saturday.

Ronan Kerr (25) died after a device armed with high explosives went off as he got into his car in Omagh, a short distance from the rural parish church where his Requiem Mass was celebrated today.

The mourners were led by his mother Nuala; his sister Dairine; and brothers Cathair and Aaron. They were joined by a large number from the wider family circle from counties Tyrone, Fermanagh as well as west Belfast.

His coffin, bearing his PSNI cap and gloves, was taken from the family home on the outskirts of the village following a private family service. The murder victim had joined the PSNI last May and completed his training just months ago. He had been assigned to Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, and was serving his probationary time there.

His coffin was borne by members of the Red Knights, the late police constable's GAA club. After a short distance they handed the coffin to six PSNI officers. On the approaches to the Church of the Immaculate Conception, they handed over to the six more pall-bearers. These included GAA president Christy Cooney, Ulster president Aoghan O Fearghal, Ciaran McLaughlin, the GAA Ulster secretary; Tyrone captain Brian Dooher and the Tyrone senior manager Mickey Harte.

The coffin was carried by family members past a guard of honour by local schoolchildren from St Oliver Plunkett's to the doors of the church where it was met by Fr John Skinnader.

Already assembled in the church were political leaders from all parties throughout Ireland.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny was joined by Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin and by the DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness.

The SDLP was represented by Dr Alasdair McDonnell who was joined in the congregation by Basil McCrea of the Ulster Unionists, Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon, senior UDA figure Jackie McDonald.

Among the mourners were Peter Bunting and David Begg from the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Other church leaders were present including the Presbyterian Moderator, Dr Norman Hamilton.

In his homily Fr Skinnader said that even the liturgy would struggle to give comfort to the bereaved. "Ronan left a legacy of love," he said. "He loved his faith and he loved life."

He recalled being stopped in Enniskillen by Ronan when he was on duty in Enniskillen. The priest remarked on the young man's love of adventure and of cars. Recalling Ronan's childhood years, Fr Skinnader said he was always up to mischief with his brother, Cathair.

"He had a sharp sense of wit," he added. "He loved his gaelic football and following Tyrone. He loved his new career. Seeing him sitting behind the wheel of his police car I said to myself 'there is the new face of Northern Ireland'. He wanted to be of service of others and working for the good of the entire community."

He told the congregation: "No one has the right to destroy the life of another human being in order to enhance their own sense of freedom or identity."

Recalling the Gospel reading about the death of Lazaurus, Fr Skinnader asked: "Why did Jesus weep?" It was out of compassion for the grief of his relatives, he suggested.

"We are a broken humanity - caught between love and hatred, sorrow and joy. Death is not the end but the entrance into eternal life. Ronan has gone there too soon," he said.

"He and his generation are proud of their culture, tradition and faith - without walls or barriers. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It unites rather than divides. Echoing the words of his mother shortly after his murder Fr Skinnader said Ronan had not died in vain. The cross-section of the community present in the church was testimony to that."

The final commendation was given by Cardinal Sean Brady, the Catholic primate. He urged the congregation to make the occasion of Ronan's funeral a defining moment.

He denounced violence and the taking of human life and implored parents to teach their children, who have no direct memory of the Troubles, to reject those who advocate killing.

Dr Brady said the assembly of politicians from so many parties in both parts of Ireland and the wave of condemnation made it clear that Ronan Kerr had not died in vain. His address was received with sustained applause.

After Mass the coffin was taken to Drumduff cemetery for a private burial.