Northern Ireland

Some father's son: a police officer in Northern Ireland

A policeman and forensics in Londonderry where four mortar bombs were discovered
Image caption A policeman and forensics in Londonderry where four mortar bombs were discovered

The father of a police officer in Londonderry tells what it is like to have a member of the family in the PSNI, in the wake of a foiled mortar bomb attack believed to have been aimed at police.

My first thought was: "I wonder where my boy is, I wonder is he involved in this".

My second thought was: "These guys coming with such an unpredictable, irrational sort of weapon through a built-up area, what are they going to do to my beautiful wee city?"

But then it goes back to wondering where my son is.

I suppose as a parent, that is my job. Sometimes it is difficult to draw the line between knowing that he is grown up and he is trained, he knows what to do. But as a parent it is still my job to worry about it and I do.

'Looking for him'

When I heard about the mortar find, I did what any logical parent would do and I checked to see if he was OK. If he says he is OK, I know better than to ask for any details because I will not get them but I don't care about the details, I just need to know that my boy and his mates are OK.

Watching the television pictures of the devices that were found in the van, I'm looking at the images and I see the mortar bombs, but what I am actually looking for is him.

I am wondering is my boy in there anywhere because I don't know where he works at times.

As a civilian, I thought the days of these mortar bombs were long gone so it was not something I thought about.

Maybe I was of the impression that once he is in the base of the station, that he is safe and he is fine unless he gets called out to something. This situation, what was believed to be a planned attack on a police station, has proved that I was wrong.

'A job to do'

The people who planned this would probably argue that the PSNI are no friends of ours and they are no friends of the people but under the Patten reforms, we now have a group of officers who are younger, dynamic, with a more evenly balanced spread of religious and political views.

These officers are trying to do a job and make this city and province better for not just their own kids but for everybody, and they are not being allowed to do it.

But in the future, they will. It will come and the fact that these mortar devices were intercepted shows that the people planning to use them have not got the backing they like to think they have.

Do I ever wish that my son had chosen a different job? Of course. But I suppose it is a lesson that, as a parent, you learn very early that you cannot wrap your kids in cotton wool all their life. You have to let them fly the nest and find their own way.

'No-brainer'

What I will say, however, is given a choice between doing what he does now, and doing what these other guys are doing planning these attacks - it is a total no-brainer.

I am happy that he feels committed enough to do this. I am happy that he has chosen a way that can make a difference and he wants to make a difference.

It is not just a cliché thing of serving the community. He believes he has another job to do as well. There has been a lot of criticism of police forces in Northern Ireland over the years, historically, and he knows he cannot change that from outside.

He knows he can only change it by how he behaves when he is on duty, allowing people to judge him by how he acts and how he treats other people. That is his job.

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