Editor's Viewpoint: Help put these evil killers behind bars
The minister at the funeral of murdered prison officer David Black put his death starkly in perspective.
He was a man of honour and principle, of kindness and generosity and committed to peace and prosperity, the complete opposite of the murderous thugs and bloodthirsty criminals who took his life. That was not mere rhetoric, but a concise and brutally honest summation of a vile act.
The tributes paid to Mr Black by all shades of opinion, even from prisoners, demonstrate that he was a man much loved by his family and much respected by the wider community. He was the embodiment of all that is decent in the Ulster character, who even within the prison walls which were his workplace was willing to seek out the good in the inmates.
By contrast those who took his life have nothing to offer the community, but more death and misery. They want to turn the clock back to a time of inter-community strife. Of course they cannot do that, but they can heap grief on families like that of Mr Black. They plot their murderous activities in the shadows, because their spurious cause cannot stand scrutiny in the cold light of day and they stand condemned by every right-thinking person in Northern Ireland.
They have gained a notoriety with the killing of Mr Black, a drive-by shooting on a busy motorway when the victim must have felt safest on his journey to work. But the very method of the murder showed that the killers were blinded in their bloodlust to the potential danger to every other motorist. But then life to them, anyone else's life, is of little consequence.
While the dissident republicans have little support and are relatively small groups, they still pose a threat. Their actions are meant to destabilise the peace process which has been built on the tears and grief of thousands of other families and that is why it was heartening to see practically every shade of political opinion represented at Mr Black's funeral. Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who condemned the killing, was willing to attend but was told the family wanted no Sinn Fein presence. That, of course, was their right and shows that, in spite of the party's transformation, some divisions are taking longer to heal than others.
The Justice Ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic were also present, a reminder that ultimately it is for the police and courts to find and punish the killers of Mr Black. Whilst everyone in authority from the Prime Minister down has pledged to bring the murderers to justice, history shows that even the best of intentions are not always borne out. The greatest tribute to Mr Black and his grieving family is for anyone with a scrap of information about those responsible for his death to give it to the PSNI and put those evil men behind the bars of the jail where he once worked with distinction.