N.Ireland police to quiz man in policeman murder probe

7th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

Police will Thursday question a man arrested in Scotland over the murder of a Catholic policeman in Northern Ireland, a day after the killed man was laid to rest.

The 26-year-old suspect was taken to Northern Ireland for questioning by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) over Saturday's killing of Constable Ronan Kerr by a car bomb planted by suspected dissident republicans.

Police said the arrest was linked to a stash of arms found late Tuesday in the Northern Irish town of Coalisland as they investigated the death of 25-year-old Kerr in the town of Omagh.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris said the arms seizure was "one of the most significant in recent years" and included kalashnikov rifles, ammunitions and explosives.

The arms "will now be forensically examined and provide new lines of inquiry for our investigators."

Asked whether the arrest and arms seizure were directly linked to the policeman's murder, he responded: "This is part of one line of inquiry within the Ronan Kerr murder investigation. I am not saying they are directly linked."

The first minister of the United Kingdom province, the Protestant Peter Robinson, on Wednesday attended his first ever Catholic mass to see Kerr laid to rest.

The funeral generated scenes that would have been unimaginable during the Troubles, the 30 years of bombings and murders in Northern Ireland which were largely brought to an end by a 1998 peace agreement.

Robinson is the first leader of the Democratic Unionist Party ever to attend a Catholic mass, while the presence at a police funeral of his Sinn Fein deputy Martin McGuinness, a former commander in the Irish Republican Army, was also a clear break with the past.

The policeman's coffin, topped with his uniform cap, was carried to the church by colleagues from the PSNI through an honour guard formed by members of his boyhood Gaelic football club.

His home village of Beragh fell silent as the funeral cortege passed through.

Cardinal Sean Brady, the head of the Catholic Church in Ireland, told mourners: "The people have said 'no, never again', to the evil and futility of violence. They have said an emphatic 'no' to the murder and mayhem of the past.

"Let there be no doubt that the killing of Ronan Kerr was totally unjustified."

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, who also attended the funeral, described the murder as an "act of cowardice".

It was the first murder of a policeman in the province since 2009, when an officer was shot dead by dissident republicans.

No group has claimed responsibility, but the murder is further proof that small numbers of dissidents who want to see Northern Ireland join the Republic of Ireland to the south remain bitterly opposed to the peace process.

The Northern Ireland Assembly dissolved last week ahead of elections to be held on May 5.

It was the first time that the devolved, power-sharing administration -- a keystone in the peace process -- had completed a full four-year term.

The officer was one of a growing number of Catholics to join the PSNI, which in its previous guise of the Royal Ulster Constabulary was overwhelmingly Protestant until it was reformed in 2001.

Omagh was the scene of the deadliest attack of the Troubles, when republican dissidents killed 29 people, including a woman pregnant with twins, in August 1998.

© 2011 AFP

0 Comments To This Article