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Sunday 17 December 2017

McGuinness labels car bomb killers 'enemies of peace'

The North's Justice Minister David Ford, First Minister Peter Robinson, Chief Constable Matt Baggott and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness during a press conference at Stormont. Photo: PA
Forensic officers gather evidence outside the home of PC Ronan Kerr, in Omagh, Co Tyrone. Photo: PA
Ronan Kerr's mum Nuala makes an appeal last night with her sons and daughter Cathair, Dairine and Aaron
Constable Ronan Kerr who was killed in a car bomb attack in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on Saturday
Tyrone footballers stand for a minute's silence before their National League game against Kildare at Dungannon yesterday
The scene of the car bomb
PSNI forensic experts at the scene

Dissident republicans who murdered a young Catholic police officer are waging a useless war against peace, Martin McGuinness said today.

The North's Deputy First Minister, standing shoulder to shoulder with PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, First Minister Peter Robinson and Justice Minister David Ford in a show of unity, said those who killed 25-year-old Ronan Kerr in Omagh on Saturday were enemies of the people of Ireland.

"They are involved in a useless war against peace," he said at Stormont.

"They are enemies of the peace, they are the enemies of the people of Ireland."

After the constable's heartbroken mother Nuala Kerr last night urged Catholics not to be dissuaded from joining the police, Mr McGuinness also spoke of his deep pride in the young nationalists and republicans who had chosen to wear the uniform of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Mr McGuinness paid tribute to Mrs Kerr, and to the widow of Pc Stephen Carroll, the first PSNI officer killed by dissidents.

"There can be absolutely no doubt that Nuala Kerr is an inspirational woman, just like Kate Carroll is an inspirational woman," he said.

"Our community has been absolutely united over the course of the weekend. We have had a united voice from the community, from church leaders, from civic leaders, from leaders of all the political parties, north and south and, very powerfully, from the Gaelic Athletic Association.

"The people who murdered Ronan Kerr need to consider all of that, consider how isolated they are, and they need to bring their activities to an immediate end."

He added: "Nuala Kerr spoke of the great pride that she had in Ronan, and there has been much discussion over the course of the weekend about the whole issue of young Catholics joining the police and the affect the killing of Ronan will have on them.

"I know that there are many young Catholics in the police who are very nationalist and indeed republican-minded.

"I am as proud of them as Nuala Kerr is of Ronan. And I think that needs to be said loud and clear."

He said politicians would remain united in the face of the threat.

"Let those people who perpetrated this be totally and absolutely aware, that we are not going away."

Mr McGuinness said his stance represented the people of Tyrone and of Ireland, but that the killers were delusional and could achieve nothing.

He said their objectives were unattainable. They would not destroy the peace process, derail the power-sharing government or topple the new policing arrangements.

He said if they set out to embarrass Sinn Fein, then that "would not happen".

"I am not in the least embarrassed by giving the type of leadership that I believe the people of Ireland demand as we move forward to bring about better times for our people and economic prosperity," he said.

"Our position is one of defiance... and ultimately we are the people who will prevail."

He praised the contribution of all police officers, both Catholic and Protestant, and urged anyone with information on the car bomb that killed Pc Kerr on Saturday to come forward.

"I would say, and I am standing up to be counted, give the information to the police, give it to the Garda in the south if you have it, give it to the PSNI in the north," said the Sinn Fein representative.

"My message is very, very simple: those who are perpetrating these acts, those who are killing our people, need to be apprehended.

"These are people who are pledged to destroy the peace and destroy a peace process that many of us have invested much of our adult lives in trying to bring about.2

He said the decision to attack a Catholic police officer had brought that community into focus, but he said there must also be praise for the young Protestants who have joined.

"If anything was to happen to any of them I would be as outraged as I am about the murder of Ronan Kerr. I think it is very important to say that. This isn't about Catholic or Protestant, this is about recognising that we have a police service."

Mr McGuinness added: "I stand by them as I stand by Ronan Kerr and his friends."

The First Minister said the symbolism of politicians from different traditions standing beside the Chief Constable would send a powerful message to the dissidents.

After the death of Pc Carroll two years ago, Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness, made a similar show of unity when they stood either side of then chief constable Hugh Orde to voice their condemnation.

Since then law and order powers have been devolved from Westminster to London and today the region's Justice Minister David Ford also took part in the meeting at Stormont Castle.

"It is one of these occasions where perhaps the picture speaks much more than any of the words might do so," said Mr Robinson.

"We stand as First and Deputy First Minister on either side of our Chief Constable and we have with us our Justice Minister, indicating that policing is now a devolved responsibility. It's therefore the responsibility of all of us in these institutions.

"It really does beggar belief because I cannot understand the strategy, if such it can be called, of those who carried out the kind of activity that we saw just a matter of a day or two ago because all that it has done is strengthen the institutions that we have, united our community, bring politicians closer together and ensure that there is a united response in support of the PSNI."

Press Association

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