Third arrest on North murder


A third man was arrested tonight in the investigation into the murder of prison officer David Black yesterday in Northern Ireland.

The suspect (29), was detained in Leitrim in the Republic by gardaí and is being held in Carrick-on-Shannon. This morning, two other men including a known dissident republican were arrested in the North by the PSNI.

Mr Black (52), was gunned down during a high speed ambush yesterday on a motorway as he drove to work at Maghaberry high security prison.

His killing prompted condemnation from across Britain and Ireland and police have blamed it on dissident republicans.

Earlier, supporters of dissident republicans were told they needed to “get real” and realise such people are a “ragbag” of criminals out for their own ends by the North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

Mr McGuinness was speaking after a scheduled North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh today at which the shooting yesterday of Northern Ireland prison officer David Black by suspected dissidents was discussed.

In an impassioned attack on the killers, Stormont’s Deputy First Minister said they swim “in a sea of criminality and drugs” while wrapping themselves in a flag of political convenience.

The Sinn Féin veteran and First Minister Peter Robinson stood with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore after the Armagh meeting as they jointly denounced the killing.

Mr McGuinness said there was no evidence the dissident movement was growing, but he had a stark message for the “tiny” minority who supported their actions.

“What you have to understand is that if you support these people, you are effectively supporting people who are swimming in a sea of criminality and drugs, dressing it up on occasions in a flag of political convenience, and you shouldn’t be under any illusions about that,” he said.

Away from attacks on security force personnel, dissidents have become embroiled in violent feuds with drug dealers on both sides of the Border, resulting in a number of recent murders.

“People need to get real,” Mr McGuinness said. “They need to recognise the danger that a tiny number of people can represent to human beings and they need to recognise that the world has changed, that over the course of the last 15 years we have built something, all of us together, which we can be very proud of.

“And we are not going to let it go, to anybody, certainly not to a ragbag of people who have inspired themselves and others for their own purposes, to fill their own coffers, to engage in criminality and to extort money from drug pushers and drug barons - effectively becoming themselves part of the drug problem on the island of Ireland.

“That message needs to go out very loud and clear.”

Mr McGuinness said people could not be “half-baked” in their response to the murder and had to wholeheartedly support the authorities in tracking down Mr Black’s killers.

At the close of the meeting, Mr Kenny was equally scathing about the hardliners.

“Yvonne Black has lost a husband, her children Kyle and Kyra have lost a father and Northern Ireland has lost a good hard-working son,” he said.

“We condemn this murder unreservedly, and the Tánaiste and I have pledged full support, full information and full response to the authorities in Northern Ireland and the PSNI.”

He added: “We do not want to see a return to this, nobody on this island wants to see a return to this.”

Mr Robinson described the culprits as “evil and immoral” and branded them the enemies of everyone across the island of Ireland. “To be frank, all sections and sectors of our community need to be aware that these are their enemies,” he said.

“When someone strikes at the Prison Service in Northern Ireland, that’s our Prison Service, that’s part of our community, they are attacking us as part of that community, and the community must give a community response to that.

“And the best way for the community to do that is to provide all the information that they might have - give it to the police so they can put together a case against these people.”

Mr Gilmore said the dissidents had no mandate. “What happened yesterday was a crime and it was crime borne of criminality, and the criminality that gave rise to yesterday’s crime is not confined to North of the Border - we have seen too in Dublin in recent times shootings, killings taking place.

“And this is a problem we have to work on together, people who are associated with criminality, drug dealing, drug pushing, various forms of criminality and then trying to dress it up in some way as something political or something more noble - we have to put an end to that, we have to be very clear about where we stand in relation to it - and we are going to stand together on this.”

Two men, one a known dissident republican, had been arrested earlier today by PSNI officers investigating the murder, sources said. The two were detained by officers in Lurgan, Co Armagh, just miles from where Mr Black was assassinated in a drive-by shooting on the M1 motorway. Both men were taken for questioning at Antrim by detectives.

Mr Black, a married father of two from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was shot dead as he drove to begin duties at Maghaberry Prison, near Lisburn, Co Antrim, yesterday morning. He was shot several times from a dark blue Toyota Camry with a Dublin registration that pulled up alongside his black Audi A4 at about 7.30am on the M1 near Lurgan.

The Toyota believed to have been used in the attack - registration 94D 50997 - was later found burnt-out in the Inglewood area of Lurgan, Co Armagh - a town with strong pockets of dissident support.

Colleagues said Mr Black, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, had been actively considering retirement after more than 30 years’ service.

Dissidents have been engaged in a long-running protest campaign against conditions inside HMP Maghaberry in Co Antrim - Northern Ireland’s only maximum-security prison.

Mr Black has become the 30th prison officer killed in Northern Ireland since 1974, although the first for almost 20 years.

Mr Black’s service had stretched back as far as the 1981 IRA hunger strike in the Maze prison when 10 republicans starved themselves to death.

Mr Black was a long-standing member of the Orange Order in Cookstown. Grand master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland Edward Stevenson said he was the 337th member of the organisation to be murdered by terrorists since 1969.