Tuesday 21 November 2017

Slain police officer wanted to make society 'a better place'

Neighbours leave flowers at the site where Ronan Kerr died
Neighbours leave flowers at the site where Ronan Kerr died

Michael McHugh, David Young and Steven McCaffery

THE bomb which killed a young Catholic policeman in the North at the weekend was the size of a lunch box, but was packed with up to half a kilogram of high explosives, detectives have revealed.

The booby-trap laid by dissident republicans that killed Ronan Kerr on Saturday in Omagh, Co Tyrone, was likely to have been detonated by a mercury tilt switch, and had been brought into the Highfield housing estate any time from last Thursday onwards.

Details of the murderous attack emerged yesterday as close friends of Constable Kerr said he had joined the service to make society a better place.

His team mates in the Beragh Red Knights GAA club said the violent extremists who killed the 25-year-old PSNI officer had claimed the life of "an Irishman and a Gael".

Meanwhile, Pc Kerr's brother Cathair reacted to the murder on his twitter page.

"I just want to thank every1 for their kind heartfelt msgs of support," he said. "We are heartbroken,but feeling strong with your help. God bless u all.

"Ronan Kerr -- Rest in Peace my beloved brother. The best brother anyone could wish for. I hope dad is there to meet you at heavens gates."

Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray said the under-car device was housed in a grey plastic container and included a safety timer, but that was probably not the means of detonating it.

"We believe it may be up to 500g of high explosives, that is an initial forensic assessment," he said.

Forensics experts have been combing the residential area for clues left by the explosion. The type of explosive is still under investigation, Mr Murray added.

"It was most likely housed in some sort of thick grey plastic box," he said. "Something around the size of a lunch box."

Constable Kerr was one of a crop of new Catholic recruits that had altered the religious make-up of a force once dominated by Protestant officers.

The cross-community outrage at the killing was underlined by members of Constable Kerr's local GAA club.

Red Knights chairman Gearoid O Treasaigh said: "Ronan Kerr was a Catholic, an Irishman and a Gael who joined the PSNI because he wanted to play his part in making our society a better place."

"Many members of our club were aware of Ronan's career path and supported him on his choice.

"The GAA stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the Kerr family, the PSNI, and the entire community in condemning outright this murder.

"We also send a strong message today to all of those people who continue to engage in this activity -- you have no support in our community, and your actions do not represent the views and feelings of the vast majority of people in Ireland."

Ulster GAA president Aogan O Fearghail, Tyrone GAA chairman Ciaran McLaughlin and Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte have all visited the Kerr household in Drumduff, near Omagh, to offer support.

Earlier yesterday, First Minister Peter Robinson, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, and Justice Minister David Ford flanked Chief Constable Matt Baggott at Stormont in a symbolic show of unity.

Mr McGuinness branded those who killed Constable Kerr "enemies of the people".

"They are involved in a useless war against peace," he said. "They are enemies of the peace, they are the enemies of the people of Ireland."

Mr Robinson and Mr McGuinness are to break new ground by attending the funeral of Constable Kerr together, senior sources have confirmed.

Stormont's two most senior politicians believe the symbolism of their joint attendance will send a powerful message.

Attending Constable Kerr's funeral would be a first for a DUP leader, and would also allow Mr Robinson to fulfill his recent pledge that he would be willing to attend requiem Mass as a mark of respect.

Condolences

Taoiseach Enda Kenny spoke to Pc Kerr's mother to express condolences on her loss.

A government spokesman said Mr Kenny rang Nuala Kerr yesterday but could not confirm if Mr Kenny will attend the funeral.

He said the funeral arrangements were still being finalised and no decision had been made on Mr Kenny's attendance.

Pc Kerr's heartbroken mother urged Catholics not to be dissuaded from joining the police.

Mr McGuinness spoke of his deep pride in the young nationalists and republicans who had chosen to wear the PSNI uniform.

"I know that there are many young Catholics in the police who are very nationalist and indeed republican-minded," he said. "I am as proud of them as Nuala Kerr is of Ronan."

Irish Independent

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