Policeman injured in car bomb hailed as hero
THE Catholic police officer who survived a dissident republican car bomb is a hero, his chief constable said yesterday.
The PSNI's top officer Matt Baggott paid tribute to Peadar Heffron (33) as he remained in a serious condition in hospital after last week's attack.
Amid suspicions that the high-profile constable was specifically targeted to dissuade other Catholics from joining the police, Mr Baggott made clear the tactic would not work.
As captain of the PSNI's Gaelic football team and a fluent Irish speaker, Mr Heffron represents the changing face of a service that is steadily redressing a traditional religious imbalance in policing in the North.
He had just left his home outside Randalstown, Co Antrim, to start work in west Belfast when the device exploded under his blue Alfa Romeo car early on Friday morning.
Mr Baggott described the recently-married officer as a man of great courage.
"He is a modern-day hero, he is someone who has stepped out, someone who is doing the right things for everybody," he said.
"What a fantastic officer he is and what a great man of courage, a man who is doing all the right things in the community, saving people's lives and helping people day in, day out.
"I want to pay him that tribute today as he lies seriously injured in hospital as a result of this abhorrent attack."
The chief constable said he was confident the attack would not dissuade other recruits from a nationalist background from joining the service.
He said the dissidents remained a small but dangerous group. "We've always said the situation is severe," he said at police headquarters in Belfast.
The attacks come amid continuing wrangling at Stormont over the DUP and Sinn Fein's failure to agree a timetable to devolve policing powers to the region.
Mr Baggott said while he would welcome progress, it was up to the politicians to deliver.
Shocked neighbours rushed to help Mr Heffron, whose car careered sideways on the slippery Milltown Road after the explosion half a mile from where he lived.
He was taken to hospital for emergency treatment before being transferred to the Royal Victoria in Belfast, where he remains in a serious condition.