6 Apr 2011

Unprecendented unity at funeral of PC Ronan Kerr

Political leaders from both sides of the Irish border attend the funeral of Catholic PC Ronan Kerr, as detectives uncover an arms haul and arrest a man in Scotland, as Carl Dinnen reports.

In a scene unimaginable just a decade ago, the President of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), Christy Cooney, and members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) came together to carry PC Ronan Kerr’s coffin to the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Beragh, Co Tyrone, while in Dublin, the Irish flag at Government Buildings flew at half-mast.

PC Kerr, 25, was killed when a booby trap device exploded under his car at his Omagh home, near Beragh, as he got in to go to work on Saturday. His murder, blamed on dissident republicans opposed to the peace process, has provoked cross-community condemnation.

They are involved in a useless war against peace. They are enemies of the peace, they are the enemies of the people of Ireland. Martin McGuinness

First Minister Peter Robinson became the first Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader to attend a Catholic Mass while the presence of Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness at the funeral of a police officer also represents a show of togetherness that would have been almost unthinkable during the Troubles. Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams was also in attendance.

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny branded the killing an act of cowardice as the Dail parliament sat for the first time since the car bomb. “I intend to [attend] the funeral of Ronan…as a statement of solidarity with the Kerr family,” Mr Kenny said.


The Tyrone village came to a standstill as local schoolchildren and members of the officer’s boyhood gaelic football club – Beragh Red Knights – flanked the cortege led by his mother Nuala, who on Tuesday night urged Catholics not to be dissuaded from joining the police.

Cardinal Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, Sean Brady, attending the funeral, issued a public plea for an end to violence in Northern Ireland.

“Parents and grandparents, I beg you, plead with your children and with your grandchildren, not to get involved with violence,” his statement read.

"There has long been a consistent view that Irish terrorism is not like other terrorism, that it has certain qualities and characteristics which means it should be treated in a different way," Professor Max Taylor of The Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV) told Channel 4 News.

"Irish terrorism has, for example, been treated differently than jihadi terrorism. But because these dissidents have little public support and will not compromise with the government, because they will only cease if the British leave Ireland, maybe it is time to think of these people in the same way that we think of other terrorists."

Read more from Professor Taylor on the PC Kerr killing and terror here.
Ronan Kerr - Reuters

Arms haul

Shortly after PC Kerr’s funeral detectives investigating his murder revealed that on Tuesday night they had discovered an arms haul in Coalisland, East Tyrone. Officers called the haul “the most significant in recent years.”

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris of the PSNI said the haul, found hidden inside stolen cars, included “four rifles, ammunition, timer power units, detonators, incendiary bombs, components for rocket launchers and other explosive devices, and a quantity of explosives, possibly Semtex.”

Late on Wednesday a 26 year old man was brought by police to Northern Ireland from Scotland, where he had been arrested in Renton, Dunbartonshire earlier in the day.

‘Enemies of Ireland’

At a press conference following the funeral ceremony, Mr McGuinness described PC Kerr’s killers as “enemies of Ireland”.

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

Mr McGuinness said Kerr’s family were “devastated”. “It was our sad duty, all of us, over the course of the weekend, to meet with Nuala Kerr and her family, her mother, her brothers, and sisters, her sons and daughters and there can be absolutely no doubt that Nuala Kerr is an inspirational woman,” he said.

Tyrone GAA manager Mickey Harte, whose daughter Michaela was recently murdered on honeymoon, and other senior GAA officials carried the coffin while police officers took it a final stretch to the churchyard, before members of the family shouldered the burden.