\"Mourners

Mourners look on as the remains of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr leave Omagh last night on the journey to his family home Photo by: Irish Times

Community unites to say goodbye to murdered Catholic policeman

\"Mourners

Mourners look on as the remains of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr leave Omagh last night on the journey to his family home Photo by: Irish Times

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Catholic and Protestant, North and South, Police and Civilians – Ireland united to say goodbye to Catholic policeman Ronan Kerr and prayed that his murder is not in vain.

The message of defiance from Kerr’s funeral on Wednesday was clear to the Dissident Republicans responsible for his murder when a bomb exploded under his car as he prepared to travel to work last Saturday.

More than a thousand mourners packed the Catholic church in Kerr’s home village of Beragh including Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, Northern Ireland’s First Minister Peter Robinson, and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

It was the first time an Irish leader had crossed the border for the funeral of a serving PSNI officer and the first time Peter Robinson had attended a Catholic service.

The significance of their actions wasn’t lost on the Congregation who applauded Catholic Primate Sean Brady at the end of the funeral Mass when he said: “This murder is an evil deed and the dissidents must, in God’s name, stop and stop now.”

Primate Brady added: “Parents and grandparents, I beg you, plead with your children and with your grandchildren, not to get involved with violence.

“Violence has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer except misery and destruction. Choose life, I say, choose goodness, choose peace. That is what God is asking of you.

“That is what the people of all traditions have been saying to all of us, loud and clear, since the moment of Ronan’s tragic death on Saturday last. In God’s name, stop. And stop now.”

Kerr, a 25-year-old Catholic and GAA player, was about to start work in a new job at Enniskillen police station when he was blown up last Saturday afternoon by a device placed under his car.

His coffin was carried first by members of his local GAA club then by a top level GAA congregation including President Christy Cooney and Tyrone manager Mickey Harte before it was finally transferred to his police colleagues in a unique show of solidarity.

Kerr was mourned by his mother Nuala, his sister Dairine and brothers Cathair and Aaron.

Family and friends were joined for the service by the four main church leaders and by MPs, TDs and Assembly members from the main parties, representatives of the Irish and British governments, senior sports figures and the heads of the PSNI and the Republic’s police force.

President Mary McAleese
was represented by her aide-de-camp Michael McMahon. Britain’s Queen Elizabeth was also represented.

Local priest Fr Skinnader, in his homily, said: “Ronan left a legacy of love. He had a sharp sense of wit. He loved his Gaelic football. He loved his new career.

“Seeing him sitting behind the wheel of his police car I said to myself, ‘There is the new face of Northern Ireland’. He wanted to be of service to others and working for the good of the entire community.

“He and his generation are proud of their culture, tradition and faith – without walls or barriers. It is inclusive, not exclusive. It unites rather than divides.”

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny told The Irish Times: “Ireland has united in its opposition to the dissidents responsible for this death.

“I have been at many funerals over the years but this one, symbolically, was as powerful as you could get. Every strata of Irish society across this island was represented here.”

Irish Minister for Justice Alan Shatter said: “Our Government will stop at nothing, within the rule of law, to defeat these groups.”

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