March sends message of peace to dissidents
Published 11/04/2011 | 05:00
Thousands of people yesterday marched for peace in Omagh one week after the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in the Co Tyrone town.
The mass rally was a powerful demonstration against violence in a community which suffered the infamous 1998 bombing by dissident republicans that killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins.
The peace march came as police investigating the murder of the 25-year-old Catholic officer continued to question three men in connection with the killing.
Detectives, who on Friday were granted an extra five days to question a 26-year-old and a 40-year-old detained over the attack, were also allowed a further five days to quiz a 33-year-old arrested by investigators.
Dissident republicans opposed to the peace process were blamed for the booby trap device that exploded under the policeman's car on April 2.
The same extremists are believed to be behind a 500lb van bomb police discovered near the border town of Newry last Thursday.
The Omagh rally attracted support from across the community and was attended by friends and relatives of Mr Kerr.
And while the march was not party political, organisers said it was intended to send a message of support in the peace process.
Gareth McElduff used Facebook to co-ordinate the rally and said it demonstrated the widespread support for the Kerr family.
He added: "Although these are major setbacks in the peace process, hopefully the amount of people that are going to come out today is going to show everybody that we want peace in Ireland again and we don't want to go back to the Troubles."
Many in the crowd held posters carrying a picture of Mr Kerr's face, with the words: "Not In My Name."
The officer's cousin, Sinead O'Kane, said she hoped the people responsible for the murder would see the groundswell of support for peace.
"It has to stop now, and let his death not have been in vain," she said.
In a separate development, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also spoke out in opposition to the violent factions and called for communities to "hold steady" in the face of the threat.
His comments came after his party leader, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, warned people against offering any shelter to breakaway gangs.
Mr McGuinness said: "I think the greatest danger from these groups is to the local community. If you look at the people that have been killed by these groups, they are mostly from the nationalist/republican community."
There are fears, meanwhile, that the van bomb abandoned near Newry was intended for a town centre and could have caused loss of life on the scale of the 1998 Omagh massacre.
Detectives said they believed the van bomb, found at an underpass on the main Dublin to Belfast road, may have been abandoned because of the presence of a police checkpoint.