Paterson: Kerr terrorists will not destabilise peace

The murder of Ronan Kerr will not destabilise the peace process, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson has told MPs.

Constable Kerr was killed by a bomb in Omagh on Saturday. Mr Paterson said his murder was "revolting and cowardly".

"It was carried out by those intent on defying the will of the people," Mr Paterson told the House of Commons.

"These terrorists will not destabilise the peace process. The Omagh bomb in 1998 did not, and nor can this."

"They failed then and they will fail now," he added.

"The PSNI have support from right across the community.

"This was evident when the first and deputy first ministers stood shoulder to shoulder with the justice minister and the chief constable to call for active support for the PSNI.

"They now have begun the painstaking task of carrying out the murder inquiry and will not stop until those who are intent on evil are brought to justice."

Deterred

At a press conference on Monday, Detective Superintendent Raymond Murray said the bomb which killed Constable Ronan Kerr was probably up to a pound in weight.

It was inside a plastic box which had been attached under his car.

Det Supt Murray said it had been probably detonated by a tilt switch, which is set off by movement.

Analysis

Ronan Kerr symbolised the new era of policing in Northern Ireland.

He was one of nearly 2,160 Catholics in the ranks of the PSNI.

That fact made him a prime target for those who placed a bomb under his car.

Dissident republicans want to drive a wedge between the police and the nationalist community in their efforts to destabilise the political process.

At the height of the Troubles, the RUC had more than 13,000 officers - and more than 90% of them were Protestant.

Ten years after it was replaced by the PSNI, almost a third of officers now come from the Catholic community.

Despite widespread condemnation of Ronan Kerr's murder, the police fear dissident republicans may have already identified their next target, and will continue their efforts to kill more officers.

He said police believed it was planted some time between Thursday evening and when it exploded on Saturday afternoon.

Constable Kerr, 25, was killed outside his home in the Highfield estate.

Det Supt Murray said components of the bomb had been recovered.

It also contained a timing mechanism which may have been for the safety of the bombers while they moved the device.

He would not be drawn on which group he thought was responsible, however he said there had been a number of dissident republican threats in the Omagh area recently.

Awfulness

Mr Kerr is the second police officer to have been murdered since the Royal Ulster Constabulary became the PSNI in 2001.

He joined the police in May 2010 and had been working in the community since December.

On Monday, the leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Cardinal Archbishop Sean Brady, said the attack on a Constable Kerr was an attack on all of society.

"I call on young Catholics to actively support the PSNI and join it. We need a police force that represents all of us.

"I also appeal to the parents of children that are being recruited by these groups to get their children to resist," he said.

"They have not lived through the dark days of the Troubles, tell them the awfulness of what we lived through."

Over the weekend Tyrone Gaelic footballers held a minute's silence before a match against Kildare.

His mother, Nuala, has since urged Catholics not to be deterred from joining the PSNI.

Police have set up a dedicated phone line for anyone with information on the murder to contact them.

The number is 028 82 256659.

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