IN death, murdered PSNI officer, Ronan Kerr created a united Ireland – a unity of spirit among people north and south of the border in expressing their utter revulsion at an act of barbarism and terrorism.
Ronan’s life was so cruelly ended in a car bomb in Omagh, County Tyrone on April 2; an attack carried out by Real IRA dissident republicans, who have absolutely no mandate from anybody on the island of Ireland. This tiny group found Ronan guilty of the crime of being a Catholic who joined a police force they despised and in their book, the appropriate penalty was death.
Any thoughts they might have entertained of having even the smallest measure of support for their campaign, one would have thought, frittered away when they took stock of the cross-section of Irish society represented at Ronan’s funeral in the village of Beragh.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin, DUP leader Peter Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness were among the notable politicians, along with the SDLP’s Dr Alasdair McDonnell and Basil McCrea of the Ulster Unionists, Independent MP Lady Sylvia Hermon and senior UDA figure Jackie McDonald. Church leaders present included the Presbyterian moderator, Dr Norman Hamilton.
Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan attended in a show of solidarity with his counterpart, PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott.
GAA president Christy Cooney was just one of many high-profile sporting administrators and players to attend.
It was a fitting tribute to the young man who, as a Catholic and a GAA player, represented the changing face of Northern Ireland by joining the PSNI. He was a product of the Peace Process that has flowed from the Good Friday Agreement of 1998.
It seems the tiny minority of terrorists in the Real IRA did not get the message. Yes, there are differences of opinion over a range of issues between people north and south but all want a civilised coexistence. There can be no justification for indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians or police officers that are working to protect the community at large.
In a Derry cemetery on Monday, a group calling itself Oglaigh na hÉireann (the IRA) had the gall to sully a 1916 Easter Rising commemorative ceremony by threatening to kill more police officers. In a statement read by a masked man in military uniform, the Real IRA also voiced its opposition to Queen Elizabeth’s State visit in just over three weeks’ time.
The statement read, “Despite the best efforts of the media, big business and other power blocks to portray this visit as acceptable, we clearly state that the Irish people will not capitulate.
“The Queen of England is wanted for war crimes in Ireland and not wanted on Irish soil. We will do our best to ensure she and the gombeen class that act as her cheerleaders get that message.”
Referring to the police, the group said, “Oglaigh na hÉireann (the IRA) call on any young nationalist who may have been sold the lie that the RUC/PSNI (Royal Ulster Constabulary/Police Service of Northern Ireland) is somehow a reformed, non-political police service to think again. Those who think they are serving their community are in fact serving the occupation and will be treated as such.
“The GAA, Catholic Church and constitutional nationalism will be unable to protect those who turn traitor, they are as liable for execution as anyone else regardless of their religion, cultural background or motivation.”
Reaction to the statement has been one of universal condemnation from politicians and community leaders on both sides of the border and British Prime Minister David Cameron.
Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said he was “absolutely disgusted” by Real IRA threats to kill more PSNI officers.
“They have no mandate,” he said. “The arrangements in this country have been settled by the Good Friday Agreement, been voted on by the people of this country and nobody has any right to challenge that in the way that these people are doing. The Government is absolutely determined that they will not succeed.”
Mr Gilmore, as a member of our democratically elected Government, speaks with full authority on behalf on all right-thinking people in Ireland.
Easter tourism boom
IT’S been sunshine all the way for the Clare tourism sector over the Easter holidays with an early season cash injection from thousands of visitors.
With school holidays flowing into the May Bank Holiday Weekend, another huge influx of holidaymakers and day visitors to the county is anticipated.
Over the past fortnight, hoteliers and accommodation providers together with a host of other businesses have reaped the rewards of the time and effort invested in promoting County Clare as a holiday destination for Irish and overseas visitors.
Certainly, Mother Nature lent a helping hand, with the exceptionally good weather responsible to a large extent for swelling visitor numbers.
What has been encouraging about the multi-million euro Easter boom is that it has filtered beyond Clare’s main towns and resorts to small coastal and lakeside villages. Money has circulated in communities all around the county, which is critical for their sustainability into the future.
The best possible way Clare can sell itself is to fully engage the visitor population it has at any given time. By all accounts, visitors to the Banner over the past couple of weeks have been wowed by its scenery, amenities, heritage, culture and music and without doubt, they will pass on the word to family and friends.
This weekend, with a full programme of community festivals and events all over the county, Clare will again be laying on a warm welcome for visitors, a high percentage of whom will be Irish. This home market is especially important as it offers great potential for repeat business.
The May Bank Holiday will provide an important opportunity for Clare to build on what has been a dream start to the tourism year.