Kyle Black: That morning I saw a car parked up on M1... it was so strange but I never thought for a minute it would be my dad
Kyle Black's prison officer father was shot dead by IRA dissidents, now he's become a DUP councillor who vows to respect everyone
Kyle Black has been a councillor for just a few weeks and already has had to defend himself against social media trolls. Forced to deal with much worse when his father David was murdered by IRA dissidents in 2012, Kyle isn't losing sleep over accusations that he is being "used" for political gain because of the tragedy.
In his first in-depth interview since being elected to the council in Mid Ulster for the DUP, the 27-year-old from Cookstown however does take the opportunity to clarify his position.
After his election victory in May he said he wants to use the platform to try and create a more peaceful Northern Ireland.
That ideal, and a desire to work hard for the people who elected him, are still very much at the heart of his decision to enter local politics.
"It has been on social media that I am being used by others because of what happened to my dad but I actually pursued it (politics) myself," he says.
"I am not going to be used by anyone and I think there is no harm in dispelling that myth, as it is certainly not the case. There is a lot more to me and my capabilities than being used for political capital."
Kyle has thrown himself wholeheartedly into his new role as a councillor in Mid Ulster, where he stood in the Carntogher electoral ward.
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He has taken to heart the grievances aired by the electorate during his weeks of canvassing. Making notes - he confesses rather a lot of them - of issues facing those he now represents, he is currently working his way through each and every one of them trying to help get them resolved.
He works full-time as a commercial insurance broker in Belfast and now much of his evenings are spent on constituency work. Given his packed schedule, thankfully he has the full support of his long-term girlfriend Adele Bradley (28), who works as a marketing manager and who he met when they both worked part-time in Asda during their university years in 2011.
It was Adele who supported him as a friend when his world was shattered by the murder of his father and that friendship led to a relationship that soon blossomed into love. They have now been together for six-and-a-half years.
Kyle has talked briefly before about the murder of his father, who was shot dead on the M1 motorway as he drove to work in Maghaberry Prison. But he has never before revealed the full shattering impact on his family.
Opening the family album to share snapshots of some of his many happy childhood memories, he describes his father as a role model and says he shares his ideals which he now hopes to bring to local politics.
"Dad was a massive part of our lives," he says. "He worked hard to give me and my sister Kyra as many opportunities as possible to help us to succeed in life. He would have tried to schedule his work so that he could bring us to different activities outside of school.
"He was a great role model and had great integrity. He believed in treating people fairly and treating others as you would like to be treated. That's how he brought us up.
"He was very loving and you would never have been afraid to go to him for guidance. He believed in working hard as well and tried to push us to reach our full potential and he supported us to do that.
"Dad had a unionist background and he was proud of his identity but he respected others from all walks of life and this was reinforced for us in the letters and cards we received from all backgrounds after his death.
"We have three boxes of letters and many are from former prisoners, both loyalist and republican, saying how he always treated them fairly and with dignity.
"It was nice to see that it wasn't just us who saw him in a certain light, but he was respected and held in high regard by many people who knew him."
Like his dad, Kyle is a huge Manchester United fan and he has fond memories of them travelling together many times to Old Trafford to watch their heroes in action.
Kyle's dad was 52 when he was murdered. After 30 years in the Prison Service he had been planning to retire just two months after he was killed.
He had just inherited a family farm which hadn't been worked in some years and had ambitious plans to get the land producing again. Kyle says: "He was looking forward to spending time on improving the land and had a lot of plans.
"He wanted to make a go of it and get some livestock. He was planning to retire at the beginning of the year."
Tragically, just a year before, Kyle's maternal grandfather Glennie Hyndman (79) was killed on his farm in an accident involving a slurry tank.
His mum Yvonne (53) was still struggling to come to terms with her father's loss when her husband was murdered.
Kyle says: "Mum lost her dad on November 14, 2011, and dad was killed on November 1, 2012. My grandfather was a massive part of all our lives. We are a very close family and it really affected my mum. She still wasn't herself when dad was killed. It has been very difficult for her."
Kyle says the family were left reeling for a long time after the murder, unable to process or deal with such a catastrophic loss. Kyra, now 23 and working as a physiotherapist, was still at school at the time.
The shock of how he was killed made it that much harder to come to terms with.
Kyle says: "The fact that someone went out to do this on him simply because of the uniform he wore is just so hard to comprehend. We knew the risks, and dad had been working as a prison officer since the early Nineties but we had got to the point when we thought that hopefully the darkest days were behind us. It was just devastating for my family."
He remembers the morning vividly and, unknown to him at the time, he drove past his dad's car on his way to Belfast where he was on work experience from university.
He heard on Facebook that a prison officer had been shot on the M1 and immediately rang his mum, who assured him all was okay.
It was minutes later that the news was broken, first to his mum at her work as a cancer nurse in Altnagelvin Hospital, and then to Kyle by policemen who called at his work in Belfast.
He recalls the last time he saw his dad: "It was a really frosty morning and when I got up dad had already been out and defrosted all of our cars. I left a few minutes after him but I wasn't able to see his car because of the weather.
"I did see a car parked up on the M1 and thought it was strange but never for one minute did I think it was my dad. In one sense you are dealing with loss, which is a massive thing to deal with in itself, but with the added complication of knowing it could have been avoided.
"People made a decision to do what they did and deprive us of a father and mum of a husband. That people can do that and justify it and support that mindset, is a difficult thing to get your head around."
From the early days after the loss of his father he was determined to remain positive and part of that, he admits, was about not allowing his killers to rob him of anything else.
He finished university despite being advised to take time off and has entered politics because he genuinely believes he can help make society better for everyone here - with the emphasis on everyone.
Kyle says: "I was always interested in politics and after dad's death it appealed to me more.
"It wasn't out of a sense of bitterness but because it would allow me to try and create a better Northern Ireland for everyone who lives here.
"I want to play my part in creating a society where everyone can flourish.
"I want to be a point of contact that people in the community can come to if they need help with anything and I hope to be a voice at local level to resolve the issues affecting people on a daily basis.
"It does mean working nights and weekends and thankfully my girlfriend Adele fully supports me and she understands why I am doing it.
"She was my rock after dad was killed and she was very patient and very supportive."
He has strong views and toes the party line on most of the topical political issues of today.
He feels that often the DUP, especially on the divisive issue of gay marriage, is misunderstood.
He believes respect for each other plays a big part in securing the fair society he dreams off and concludes: "Sometimes the DUP gets a very bad rap for not representing everybody in society but that is not my experience of the Mid Ulster DUP team.
"I am not homophobic or bigoted and no matter who would come to me for help, regardless of their sexual orientation, colour or creed, I will do my best for them.
"Just because the party opposes gay marriage doesn't mean it opposes gay people.
"However, I do believe in respect for all and this must include respect for those who have traditional or Christian beliefs. They are often wrongfully demonised for holding such beliefs. Respect cannot be a one-way street. People are as entitled to hold traditional beliefs and values as those that hold liberal views.
"Creating an environment where they can co-exist actually reflects the true meaning of equality, diversity and respect, phrases which are often hijacked by those pursuing a narrow political agenda."