Belfast Telegraph

Ronan Kerr's mother 'feels sorry' for son's killers

By David Young

The mother of a murdered policeman has insisted his dissident republican killers achieved absolutely nothing.

Preparing to mark the first anniversary of her son Ronan's death, Nuala Kerr said she felt sorry for those responsible as they would always have to live with the guilt of taking a life.

With no-one yet charged over the attack, she urged the perpetrators to unburden their conscience and hand themselves in.

Constable Kerr, 25, from Beragh, Co Tyrone, died when a booby trap bomb exploded under his car in nearby Omagh on April 2 last year.

Only months into the job, the Catholic gaelic footballer was apparently targeted in a bid to scare other young nationalists from joining Northern Ireland's new-look police service.

In the wake of the murder, Mrs Kerr made an emotional plea for Catholic trainee recruits and police officers to defy the killers and continue to serve.

Almost 12 months on, the officer's mother said the killers had failed in their objective and achieved "absolutely nothing".

"Numerous people have said to me since: 'my son, my daughter, as soon as recruitment is open again, they are hell bent on joining'," she said.

"I am delighted for Ronan that at least that is something positive that has come out of this, but unfortunately saddened that Ronan wasn't there to be one of their mentors to help them along."

Mrs Kerr, a nurse, said she pities the killers.

"I actually feel sorry for people like that being brought up and indoctrinated into the belief that killing somebody is actually going to achieve something," she said.

"I feel sorry for people who think that - that it's okay to kill somebody. How is it ever going to be okay to kill somebody, you are going to have to live with that for the rest of your life?"

She reiterated her belief that no-one should be put off from joining the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"I feel that's the only way forward in this country, we all need fairly represented in every aspect of life, and policing is one of them, and I just feel how else does this happen?" she said.

Mrs Kerr intends to spend Monday's anniversary at home in Beragh with her surviving children Cathair, Aaron and Dairine.

She said it does not feel like a year has passed since the awful day her second-born died.

"Even to this day, we are still in disbelief," she said.

"It's been a really harrowing year, because the type of person Ronan was - he was such a bubbly big personality in our house, he was the talker, he was the fun, he knew exactly what to say and what to do in situations, so we all depended on him an awful lot. I certainly did and I know my other children did.

"He was a confident and happy and intelligent young man, great potential and just a great future.

"He could have turned his hand to anything but he had just decided he always liked that type of work, he liked dealing with people, he liked the role the PSNI offered - he loved it with a passion."

The officer's mother said her son was aware of the risks associated with joining the police and did have some apprehensions being the first man from their local community to sign up.

But she said she does not regret his decision to join.

Mrs Kerr added: "I know two weeks prior to him dying he did say to somebody that he was never as happy as he was then in his life, so I think that confirmed to all of us that he was doing what he wanted to do.

"He was doing what he was good at and I know he would have made a really good police officer."

Con Kerr said something similar in a phone call to his mother only half an hour before the bomb went off.

"He was just bubbling and chatting as usual," she revealed.

"About (how) he loved his job and what time he was starting at that night again and how happy he was and looking forward to Cathair coming home the next day (from Australia), and he couldn't wait to see him and what we were going to do as a family.

"Then everything just changed completely."

Mrs Kerr said her son always checked under his car for booby traps before driving anywhere but on the day he died he had just gone to get something out of the vehicle - his weight triggering the device as he sat in driver's seat.

"How could such a good lad end up with such a short spell in the PSNI, and why could somebody not see that person beyond a uniform?" she questioned.

"They obviously did not know him well enough or they could never have done it on him because they would've known Ronan would never have done anybody a bad turn.

"He was just a real genuine, good, decent fella, and there wasn't a bad bone in his body. He was always very helpful, be it in the house, in the community or at work.

"It didn't matter what he was doing, he could never watch anybody struggling to do a job, he'd have to get stuck in and help them."

She added: "The people who did this are only a small minority, 95% of people are good, decent genuine people in this country, we keep reminding ourselves and I keep reminding the children, the majority of people in this country would never have wanted this to happen."

The funeral of the young officer witnessed unprecedented scenes of cross-community unity, with members of the police and Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) - two organisations with a tense relationship during the Troubles - standing side by side to carry the coffin.

Unionist politicians joined their nationalist counterparts for the Requiem Mass in Beragh - for some it was the first occasion they had attended a Catholic church service.

"I always felt it was very reflective of Ronan as a person," his mother said.

"Because he had so many friends, just everyone loved him who knew him, the way he lived his life - that funeral was very reflective of that."

Mrs Kerr said while life would never be the same, the family needed justice before they could think about moving on.

"Obviously we want justice for Ronan, we want somebody charged, the right person charged," she said.

"There are people out there know what happened, they know who did it and we are urging them to come forward.

"They owe it to Ronan as a person to get justice, they owe it to themselves to clear their own conscience because if they know information they are as guilty as the person who put the bomb under Ronan's car, and they owe it to us as a family that we can get answers and are able to move forward with our lives."

She also had a stark message for her son's murderers.

"I just would like to remind them that they have a family of their own and I'm sure they have obviously got either brothers or sons and daughters - when they look at them, how would they feel that somebody robbed them and done what they had done to our Ronan?

"Come forward, they need at the very least to stop what they are doing, think about what they are doing, think about the heartache and pain they cause families.

"I would also like to appeal to any young people who have any intention of getting involved in anything like this here, not to get involved, don't allow anybody to manipulate or control you or ruin your life.

"You gain respect from people who think it's great to kill somebody but you lose your own self-respect, you'll never care for yourself ever again."

Mrs Kerr said the anniversary will be hard, as all significant family dates have been since the murder.

She said Mother's Day was particularly difficult for her.

"It may be a year ago but it really doesn't feel like a year, from that point of view it's only weeks," she said.

"It's just so difficult from day to day to live with it all, but as well as that I just want to appeal to the people who done this - they have to live with this as well the rest of their lives, it's not just us, they have to live with the knowledge to know they killed a young, innocent man.

"He may have had a police uniform, he was a lovely young man, he was taken from his family and this isn't the way forward."

She added: "We are completely heartbroken. It's the hopelessness knowing no matter what we do as a family nothing is ever going to be the same again.

"They've taken somebody with such a sense of fun, a sense of joy in everybody's lives, he had a great attitude, we loved him to bits and we just desperately miss him."

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