Political parties on all sides have condemned the murder of a Catholic policeman in Omagh, Northern Ireland, on April 2nd, and assured that it will not affect the peace process.
Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed in front of his home when a bomb exploded under his car as he prepared to leave for work. He had only recently joined the police force. No group has claimed responsibility but politicians have pointed towards dissident republican groups.
There has been a recent upsurge in bombings and shootings blamed on dissident republicans.
On March 27th, police made safe a large bomb found hidden in a stolen car parked near Londonderry courthouse. The dissident republican group Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) claimed responsibility. The following day, the same group threw a small home-made bomb at a police station, but it failed to detonate. Since 2007, dissidents have planted bombs under the private cars of a number of police officers. Most have failed to detonate, but in January 2010 an officer lost a leg.
Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin (former political wing of the IRA) and member of the Irish Parliament, said at a press conference: "It is a futile attempt to destroy the progress that has been made and which has the overwhelming support of the people of this island. This action does not define republicanism and those involved do not represent republicanism.”
The First Minister Peter Robinson of the Democratic Unionist Party said in a statement: "This attack is intended to deter young Catholics from joining the police and I urge them not to be deterred by those who have nothing to offer our society. Those who perpetrated this act hoped to destabilise our community in the run up to the local elections in May. I would like to take this opportunity to send them a very clear message; the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland are stronger today than they have been at any other time in our history. The people of Northern Ireland have rejected violence and this act will not further the cause of dissidents one iota."
PC Kerr's murder happened shortly after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) announced that it would end a discrimination policy in favour of Catholic recruits introduced in 2001. In March 2011, almost 30 per cent of police officers were Catholic compared with 8 per cent in 2001.
Margaret Ritchie, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), said in a statement: "Those responsible are enemies of Ireland and enemies of peace. Their actions will not untie Ireland but will only unite people in their condemnation of their murder. This has not only stunned the people of Omagh, it has stunned the entire country.
“This is not what the people want. They cannot be allowed to continue their campaign.”
Chief Constable Matt Baggot told a press conference on April 3rd: "People from across Northern Ireland, across the political spectrum and across the world have joined in their condemnation of this most callous and brutal of murders. Politicians, community leaders, members of the public have expressed their sadness and solidarity with us.
"We must all stand united together to make Northern Ireland work. Already we get enormous support from communities but at this time I would ask them to take that extra step and bring information forward that could help us identify these murderers."
The police are appealing for information from residents and from anyone who saw or spoke to Ronan Kerr, especially if he was in his car, a black Ford Mondeo, registration PNZ 1114.