Published 07/04/2011 | 05:00
A PROFOUND silence hung over the Tyrone village of Beragh yesterday as it laid to rest Ronan Kerr, the young Catholic police recruit killed by a dissident republican bomb.
But alongside the grieving at the terrible finality of his death, there were also unprecedented scenes of unity and harmony, which confirmed that something new and hopeful was coming into being.
It is too early to say how much of a defining moment this is, but the anger at his death is so deep that yesterday it brought together elements that were always regarded as poles apart. Police colleagues carried his coffin down the main street and, at the Catholic church, provided a guard of honour. So too did colleagues from the GAA.
Mr Kerr was an enthusiastic member of both, combining his Catholic identity with a police ethos, which was why dissident republicans killed him.
Yesterday, the GAA and the police together provided striking evidence of their strong common rejection of the bombers. Police carried the coffin down most of Beragh main street, then handed it over to members of the GAA.
Among those at the service was the North's most senior unionist, the First Minister Peter Robinson, who had never before attended a Catholic Mass.
That, too, conveyed how the terrorists' hopes of wrecking the peace process by deepening divisions has instead produced a new level of political and communal unity.