Belfast Telegraph

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Disdain for the public over vile killer's funeral utter disgrace

By Paul Connolly

Published 05/02/2016

Tightlipped: David Ford
Tightlipped: David Ford

Sometimes it's difficult to understand why some politicians and civil servants are determined to keep the public in the dark about so many matters.

Take for example this newspaper's exclusive last week on the cremation of the vile child killer Robert Black. The Belfast Telegraph learned through journalistic endeavour that Black was to be secretly cremated at Roselawn after no one claimed his body.

The remains of the man who murdered Jennifer Cardy from Co Antrim and at least three other schoolgirls, and perhaps as many as 16 across the UK, were to be disposed of in the proper manner: unloved, unpitied, unmourned in a silent, empty crematorium.

'Into the flames' said the headline, with surely more than a nod to where Black might figuratively spend eternity, as well as the physical cremation of Black's earthly remains.

It was fitting that the only people present at the service were a minister and crematorium staff. Oh, and a reporter from the Belfast Telegraph.

What a contrast to a normal funeral, where family, friends and indeed, in Northern Ireland, entire communities turn out to show their love and respect.

Of course, if the authorities had their way you'd never have known what would have happened to Black's remains. Or at least I think that was the plan, because they aren't saying.

David Ford's Justice Department was asked repeatedly to provide the information, but wouldn't. It may well have had good reasons for keeping you in the dark about Black's funeral, but so far it hasn't enlightened us.

Presumably it thought a pitchfork mob would besiege Roselawn, drag the evil old coward from his coffin before hanging, drawing and quartering his body.

Mr Ford - this would not have happened.

And if one or two protesters turned up, I'm quite sure the PSNI, with all its experience, could have kept them at a discreet distance.

Instead, plans were hatched for a secret cremation as darkness fell. Those plans were spoiled. I have no inside knowledge of what actually happened, but it is likely that in this case for "journalistic endeavour" read a good reporter plus a courageous source.

This paper was correct to pixelate the faces of undertakers and officials present. Not long after the funeral the premises of a funeral director who helped with the cremation was damaged. The Belfast Telegraph wisely chose not to identify the undertaker in the article, which is proof that there was no direct link to the newspaper's story.

Of course, had the paper identified the funeral director it would have been accused in some quarters of signposting an attacker - even without proof.

Why Mr Ford's office so stubbornly refused to comment is a mystery. People respect candour and leadership. I cannot understand why he did not come out and say: "Hey, the decision was mine. It was a tough one to take, but I'm the Justice Minister and it's what I'm paid to do.

"The reason I did it was...". Well, that's the part I can't finish.

Alternatively, a discreet journalistic pool could have been arranged so the public would see how taxpayers' money was being spent or that he was not buried somewhere inappropriate or even macabre. News management instead of news blackout.

Instead, a source blew the cover and now we all know the extraordinary lengths Stormont went to conceal the funeral of perhaps the worst child killer these islands have ever known.

Belfast Telegraph

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