Nothern Ireland condemns murder of policeman

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Northern Ireland politicians expressed outrage Sunday over the murder of a policeman in the British-ruled province, as they insisted the killing would not derail the peace process.

Catholic officer Ronan Kerr, 25, was killed Saturday by bomb placed under his car outside his home in Omagh, the scene of Northern Ireland's worst terror atrocity. He had completed his training only three weeks ago.

Responsibility for the attack has not yet been claimed. However, senior politicians pointed towards dissident Catholic republicans who oppose the 1998 peace accords with Protestants.

"These people have not advanced by one millimetre their cause," Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson told BBC television.

"All they have done is united a community against them and left a mother and family stricken with all of the anguish that comes with the loss of a young son.

"It is a despicable act, an evil act and I believe that the community will unite together and I hope people will give whatever information they have to the PSNI."

The victim is only the second member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to be killed since it succeeded the Royal Ulster Constabulary in 2001 as part of the peace process. The other murder was in 2009.

Since the PSNI was formed, growing numbers of Catholics have signed up to the force, whose members are predominantly Protestant.

While mainstream republicans such as Sinn Fein -- the largest Catholic party -- support it, dissidents see it as an arm of the British state.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott appealed for information on the attack.

"We need these people to be given up. We need these people to be taken out of communities and given up so that justice can be done," he said.

"My emotions are a deep sense of pride in Ronan, and the fact that he chose this career, knowing what the dangers were, that he chose to be a peacemaker and a peacekeeper."

Saturday's attack comes after the Northern Ireland Assembly dissolved last week ahead of local 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.

"I don't think this (murder) will be an election campaign issue because all of the parties are completely united," Robinson added.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he was "calling on those who carried out this action to stop. There is no sense to it. There is no point to it and they should stop and stop now."

The timing, target and location of Saturday's attack all bear significance.

Omagh was the scene of the deadliest attack of the Troubles, the three decades of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics which was largely ended by the April 1998 peace accords.

The Real Irish Republican Army splinter group killed 29 people, including a pregnant woman, and wounded around 200 others in the August 1998 attack.

More than 3,500 people died in the Troubles between Catholics who largely wanted the province to become part of the Republic of Ireland and Protestants who generally want to stay within the United Kingdom.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Saturday that "those who carried out this wicked and cowardly crime will never succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to a dark and bloody past."

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whose husband, former president Bill Clinton, helped facilitate negotiations that led to the "Good Friday" peace agreement in 1998, said the murder was a "cowardly act."

© 2011 AFP

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