In quiet defiance thousands gather to oppose men of violence
A young girl, not much older than four years of age, tugged on her father’s arm as they stood amongst the crowds in Belfast city centre.
“I don’t want to be blew up by the men, daddy,” she shouted.
Her father bent down, kissed her on the top of the head and told her not to worry about “things like that”.
As this young child, born a decade after the Good Friday Agreement, worried about a violent death, thousands stood in silence at peace rallies across Northern Ireland to show their solidarity with the family of murdered Catholic police officer, Constable Ronan Kerr.
Anger at the murder by dissident republicans has united people from across the country’s traditional divides, Catholic and Protestant, republican and unionist.
Standing side by side were representatives from all sections of the community and political divide, many of whom were not born until after the Troubles, and others who remember those days only too well.
In Belfast large crowds gathered at the front of the City Hall for a silent lunchtime vigil organised by the Northern Ireland committee of the Irish Conference of Trade Unions.
After a piper played Amazing Grace, Pamela Dooley of the ICTU said that Constable Kerr’s death cannot be in vain.
“Two years ago the Trade Union movement came here to give public voice to our revulsion over the murders of Constable Stephen Carroll and soldiers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey.
“We resolved then, as we do again today, that we will not permit the clock to be turned back,” she said.
Ms Dooley added: “On behalf of the Trade Union movement I extend our deepest condolences to his mother Nuala and to the entire Kerr Family.
“We are proud to respond to Nuala Kerr’s courageous call that we all stand up and be counted and strive for equality for all.
“Ronan was a fine public servant.
“He understood the risk he was taking to build a fairer, more just and equal society.
“He was prepared to take that risk and paid a terrible price for his courage.
“We respond again to his mother’s words.
“We are determined that his sacrifice will not be in vain.
“As trade unionists, as workers and as members of our community we will strive to build that inclusive, just and equal society where all can work together without fear of intimidation, violence and death.
“Here, in Ronan Kerr’s name, we pledge to strive for a society where the hurt of the past is given proper expression though truth and justice and to build a future where no-one, especially our new generations, will ever again believe that violence has any place in building that future.”
She added that there are people who have information that can bring Constable Kerr’s killers to justice and urged them to come forward “in the interests of peace”.
Peace vigils were also held in Londonderry, Newry, Lisburn and Downpatrick. Yesterday afternoon MPs at Westminster gathered for 15 minutes to show their support for the peace rallies.
And in Washington the Ad Hoc Committee on Irish Affairs and the Congressional Friends of Ireland issued a statement sending condolences to Constable Kerr’s family.
“The murder of a young man who was doing nothing more than fulfiling his duty to serve and protect the people cannot be allowed to stand,” the statement said.
“The people of the North have made it clear many times over that they want peace.
“Attacks only undermine a brighter future for everyone,” the statement added.