Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, said dissident republicans who killed a policeman in the region on April 2 are “enemies of the people of Ireland,” and should end their activities.
The murder of 25 year-old officer Ronan Kerr has “totally and absolutely united,” the community, McGuinness told reporters at Stormont Castle outside Belfast. Those responsible “need to consider how isolated they are and they need to bring their activities to an end.”
Dissident republicans who oppose Northern Ireland’s U.K. link are trying to restart a three decade-long conflict that claimed 3,500 lives before largely ending with a peace deal in 1998. More than 300 police were killed in the conflict. Kerr is the second member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland to be killed since dissidents ramped up their campaign in 2009.
“I cannot understand their strategy,” First Minister Peter Robinson told reporters at the same press conference. “All that it has done is strengthen the institutions, bring politicians closer together and ensure that there is a united response in support of the PSNI.”
Kerr died when a bomb exploded under his car outside his home in the town of Omagh in county Tyrone, about 70 miles from Belfast.
Robinson, whose Democratic Unionist Party supports Northern Ireland’s continued union with the U.K., and McGuinness, whose Sinn Fein party wants a united Ireland, head up a power-sharing assembly that was revived in 2007, two years after the Irish Republican Army, once supported by Sinn Fein, decommissioned their weapons and renounced violence. Sinn Fein declared support for the police in 2007.
The PSNI was created in 2001 to replace the Royal Ulster Constabulary, which was more than 90 percent Protestant. The aim of creating the PSNI was to attract more Catholics into the force, which now is about 30 percent Catholic. Last month the U.K. government ended a policy of 50/50 Catholic and Protestant recruitment into the PSNI, first introduced to encourage Catholics to join.
Most of the RUC members killed during the conflict, known as “the Troubles,” were killed by the IRA. McGuinness, a former IRA leader, said today he was “proud” of Catholics who joined the PSNI.
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