Belfast Telegraph

Why Constable Kerr's killers want it to be 1972 here forever

By Gail Walker

Psni Constable Ronan Kerr died serving the people of this place. And, apart from the pitiful throwbacks and the pathetic fellow travellers of this or that "dissident" group, that means he died serving each and every one of us.

You and me. So we can go about our business of earning a living, falling in and out of love, watching pop stars come and go, venture scorn at our MLAs, become all het up listening to Talkback and generally get on with our lives.

Among the many horrors associated with Ronan Kerr's death, the most heartrending is that he was only 25. The implications of that early death haunt us.

But there is in Constable Kerr's murder something still more direct and intimately involving than even his youth or the savage circumstances of his last moments among us.

Born in the mid-80s and maturing in our curious peace, Ronan Kerr heard and believed in the vision of our political leaders, and the hopes of the rest of us, for nearly two decades.

He died because he believed things can change, that times change and that finally we, caught up in our own little crises of belonging, can change.

And that is what his killers fear. They'd rather that time stood still, that we remain the same. Forever and ever a dark grey Tuesday afternoon, sometime in 1972. There'd be control zones, shops pulling down shutters for funerals to go past, handbag searches, bomb warnings, police wives drying uniforms indoors. They'd be playing at armies, giving themselves grandiose titles and issuing "statements".

Regardless of the literal ages of Constable Kerr's killers, this was a savage attack by all that represents the old, the calcified, the joyless and the dead against youth and the very idea of life. A rebellion of the young? No, this is a rebellion of the very, very old.

Whatever the stripe of "dissident republicanism" the murderers of Ronan Kerr adhere to, they are certainly not fighting for a united Ireland.

That's precisely the point of targeting a Catholic. Not just to kill an "agent of the British state" but to keep (their?) people in their allotted place in the killers' own neverending psychodrama.

Although he may never have considered it in these terms and probably thought of day-to-day policing simply as a service to his fellow citizens, Ronan Kerr chose the future.

Brief as his career was, he chose life. His murderers are in love with death.

As we again go about building a kind of future as best we can, we should remember that there are those out there who are committing to our future much more than we ever will.

Constable Kerr died so that we can have a life.

All the mourning and hand-wringing in the world won't alter this simple fact - he believed what we told him. He believed, not that we can change or could change, but that we had actually changed already.

He believed that what we have been telling the world for a generation now was, is and will continue to be true. That we have changed already.

Was he mistaken? Have we betrayed him? Did we lure him into his car last Saturday afternoon with our talk about a new society and 'moving forward'? He staked his life on our words.

We all have to honour that life now. We all have to make sure that we have ourselves changed in word and deed, in every small exchange within our communities, however difficult.

We have to make this country a no-go zone for the rotten, vile hatred which makes bloody victims of young men and women. We have to challenge its ugly face however it shows itself.

If we don't, if we harbour any secret nest of sectarian thought in our hearts, we will be haunted by murder for ever and we will have lied to ourselves and our children and grandchildren, over and over again, and we will continue to trick young people into believing our hypocrisies. We will let them die on our behalf.

It's really time now to drain that poison. Whatever it takes.



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