PSNI officer dies in car explosion
Booby-trap bomb attack suspected in killing of young Catholic police officer
A young Catholic police officer was murdered in Omagh, Co Tyrone, yesterday when a powerful bomb ripped through his car.
Ronan Kerr was just weeks into his police career and was leaving his home at Highfield Close on the Gortin Road just outside Omagh town when the bomb was detonated shortly before four o'clock yesterday afternoon.
It is the first death of a member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) since Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead by the Continuity IRA in Craigavon, Co Armagh, in March 2009.
Last night, President Mary McAleese expressed her deep shock and sadness at what she described as the "callous murder" of Constable Kerr, and said that her thoughts and prayers were with his family, friends and colleagues.
"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 President said.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny condemned the murder as a heinous and pointless act of terrorism.
"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," Mr Kenny said.
Cardinal Sean Brady went further, issuing a direct call to Constable Kerr's killers.
He said: "I implore the perpetrators of this shameful killing to realise the futility of their actions and to call off this senseless campaign."
Justice Minister Alan Shatter described the killing as a disgraceful act carried out by criminals whose aim was to destroy the lives of those around them.
Mr Shatter said he had already been fully briefed by Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan on the incident, and said that the gardai would do everything they could to assist the PSNI in tracking down Constable Kerr's killers.
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams TD also condemned the attack.
"I want to send my condolences to the young man's mother at this time. Sinn Fein is determined that those responsible will not push back the progress of the peace process," he said.
It is understood that Constable Kerr had served in Dungannon police station since his graduation from police training college.
Yesterday was to have been his first day in a new posting at Enniskillen police station in Co Fermanagh.
His brutal murder marked a horrific end to a week in which dissident republican elements had disrupted nationalist areas in Derry and Belfast with both real and hoax bomb alerts.
The dissident violence last week coincided with the beginning of campaigning for the Stormont Assembly elections and local government elections in the North in May.
Security sources had said last week that there was limited intelligence information indicating that an attack would be carried out by dissident republicans in the western part of the North.
The same intelligence suggested that this could involve an under-car bomb attack and a car-bomb attack in a town.
The murder of Constable Kerr yesterday confirmed that intelligence, while revisiting the horrors of terrorist violence on Omagh, a town that still bears the scars of the infamous Real IRA bombing of August 1998, in which 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins were killed.
Last night, Michael Gallagher, who lost his 21-year-old son Aidan in that atrocity, branded Constable Kerr's murder as "double insult" to the people of Omagh.
He said: "Omagh will be a very sad place.
"They have changed an entire family and family circle forever. That is the reality of what has happened here."
Mr Gallagher added: "I feel a lot of anger that another young life has been stolen, and that this has happened again in our town."