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'Dissidents are betraying all of us, our only wish is peace'

By Claire McNeilly

Published 10/03/2016

Kate Carroll
Kate Carroll
The picture of Stephen Kate posted on Facebook
Kate and Stephen Carroll

The widow of the first PSNI officer murdered by paramilitaries has spoken of her frustration that, seven years on, there has been no let-up in the dissidents' reign of terror.

Kate Carroll said last week's attempted murder of a prison officer by a renegade group calling itself the 'New IRA' was "a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland who want peace".

And she added that it brought back painful memories of the night in March 2009 when Constable Stephen Carroll was shot dead after responding to an emergency call in Craigavon.

Two men - Brendan McConville (40) and John Paul Wootton (20) - were later jailed for life for the murder.

To mark the anniversary of her husband's death, Mrs Carroll posted a picture of him on Facebook, saying that she wanted to move on.

The photo was shared thousands of times on the social network after the PSNI posted it on its Facebook pages.

But Kate added that she found it difficult when republican dissidents with murderous intent were still active and targeting the security forces.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the 65-year-old widow told how she felt physically sick when she heard of the recent bomb attack on the 52-year-old prison officer in east Belfast.

"It brought me back to Monday March 9, 2009, when police officers came to my door to tell me what had happened," said Kate.

"Steve was shot at 9.42pm that night and I was told that he died at 10.30pm.

"The feeling of shock at that news came rushing back again.

"I never want anyone else ever to go through the pain and anguish that I went through."

She added: "This campaign of violence by certain elements of the community is a betrayal of the people of Northern Ireland who want peace."

The Banbridge mother-of-one said it was a tragedy that lessons had not been learned from the past.

"Steve paid the ultimate price in order to be the catalyst for what we thought was going to be a continuing peace in our country," said Kate, who is a former winner of the Belfast Telegraph's Woman of the Year Award.

"But we seem to be moving one step forward and three steps back, and that is something which distresses me.

"It's horrendous that attempts are being made on innocent people's lives because of the uniform they are wearing.

"The police, the Army, the prison officers...they don't have a life because they're on duty 24/7.

"They can never take their eye off the ball because there's always that one chance that - bang - their life is gone."

Kate's late husband, whom she met on a blind date in 1983, would have turned 56 this year and the couple should have been celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary on August 24.

Instead, she revealed that she spent yesterday morning beside the grave in which he was laid to rest on March 13.

"I have been holding on to my memories of Steve, wishing with all my heart that he was still here with me, but I think it's time to let him rest in peace," she said.

"I know, deep down, he would not want to come back to the situation we still have here."

And, she made an emotional appeal to those who remain intent on killing.

"How would you feel if you were in a room with all the people whose lives you have destroyed?" she said.

"Would you want this to happen to your own mother or father or sister or brother?

"It makes me so angry that people can't get on in this day and age.

"It would be the greatest tribute of all - to Steve and to anyone who has lost loved ones - if the dissidents would end this reign of terror and move on."

Belfast Telegraph

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