Belfast Telegraph

Hundreds of mourners gather for murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay's funeral

Mourners told dark act which took Mr Ismay's life was in stark contrast to the light he brought to so many.

The funeral has taken place for a prison officer who died eleven days after a dissident republican bomb exploded under his van in east Belfast.

Hundreds of family, friends and colleagues of 52-year-old Adrian Ismay attended the service at a church off the city's Shankill Road.

The 52-year-old married father of three required surgery after an explosive device partially detonated under the van he was driving on Hillsborough Drive off the Woodstock Road just after 7am on Friday March 4 - causing a loud explosion.

A host of dignitaries joined Mr Ismay's wife, Sharon, and three daughters, Samantha, Sarah and Tori, at the funeral service.

The president of the Methodist Church of Ireland, Rev Brian Anderson, told the congregation that the dark act which took Mr Ismay's life was in stark contrast to the light the Cumbrian-born Falklands veteran brought to so many.

"In the darkest part of night, probably dressed in dark clothes, dark men did a dark, dark deed, bringing us to this place today, leading to the loss of Izzy, causing us to travel through the valley of the shadow of death," he said.

Rev Anderson said the funeral provided a platform to send a strong message to those still intent on violence.

"It gives me the opportunity to voice the opinion and the thoughts of the overwhelming number of people across our country to say we reject what you have done, we stand against what you have done, we want to build an inclusive peaceful society in Northern Ireland and your contribution to it we do not want," he said.

"It's incumbent upon us as a society to ensure that those men who represent a time in our past don't get any fuel and we want them to go away and it's up to us at all levels of society to ensure we build a society that does not want them, does not need them and rejects them utterly."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster and Justice Minister David Ford attended, as did Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable George Hamilton and NI Prison Service director-general Sue McAllister.

The Irish Government was represented by the Department of Justice's acting secretary- general, Noel Watters.

Scores of prison officers from Northern Ireland attended, as did representatives from other prison services.

Mr Ismay's Prison Service cap, gloves and medals were set on top of his coffin as family members carried it from the church.

Mr Ismay had only driven a short distance from his home when the device detonated as he went over a speed ramp.

The long-serving officer was based at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast and worked as a trainer for new recruits to the NI Prison Service.

The man was taken to hospital and had undergone surgery and was understood to be recovering well.

Mr Ismay died on Tuesday of a heart attack triggered by a blood clot, 11 days after he was injured in the dissident republican attack.

The attack was claimed by renegade group the New IRA.

As the funeral took place in north Belfast, in the city centre a public vigil for the officer was held outside City Hall.

A crowd of around 100 people gathered for the vigil organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, where a piper played before a minutes silence was held.

Peter Bunting from ICTU said the vigil was an opportunity for the trade union movement “to illustrate its revulsion at the murder of a worker” and “to display our solidarity with prison officers, it’s very important that those people are supported.”

He added: “Today shows people are prepared to stand down people who murder workers.”

Also attending was Tony Jones (70) from Greenisland. His own father was a governor of Crumlin Road Prison and was killed by the IRA in 1979.

“I know what the family is going through because of my memory,” he said. “It’s sad and I’m very mindful of my own family today. That’s why I’m here because I genuinely do feel for them.”

Police fear the bombing was part of a planned upsurge in dissident activity ahead of the symbolic republican centenary of the Easter Rising against British Rule in Dublin.

All visits to Maghaberry and Hydebank Wood have been cancelled today to facilitate staff attending their murdered colleague's funeral.

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