Belfast Telegraph

Bomb victim Adrian Ismay, an honourable life needlessly snuffed out

Friends describe how prison officer murdered by rogue republicans was not just a devoted dad but a rescue volunteer dedicated to helping others

By Deborah McAleese

Murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay spent his weekends patrolling the River Lagan following the drowning of a young man, in a bid to prevent another tragedy, his friends have revealed.

The father-of-three was so alarmed at the death of 20-year-old Joby Murphy, who fell into the river after a Snow Patrol gig four years ago, that he would walk the banks of the river until 4am each weekend to save anyone else from falling in.

"That is the sort of man he was. Adrian dedicated his life to helping others," one of his friends said.

Another revealed that Mr Ismay once made a 70-mile drive after midnight to help a friend who was suffering from depression.

As well as working for the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Mr Ismay was a volunteer for the Community Rescue Service (CRS), which provides a search and rescue response for missing persons throughout Northern Ireland.

In fact, a few hours before the bomb attack on Friday, March 4, he had just returned home from a search and rescue operation, his friend Connor Duncan said.

"Adrian devoted his life to helping others. I have known him for many years. We first met through the CRS and we became friends.

"Everyone knew Adrian. He would do anything for you.

"He was a very forgiving and loyal man. You knew you could rely on him," Mr Duncan said.

The North Antrim man added: "It was like a freight train hit me when I first heard about the attack.

"Another friend from the CRS had spoken to him a few days ago and he was on the mend and was in good spirits, so it was a double shock when I heard he had died.

"I was dumbstruck. I was standing across from the City Hall when I heard the news and I didn't know what to say or do."

Mr Ismay was a long-serving prison officer based at Hydebank Wood Young Offenders Centre in south Belfast. He had served for 28 years.

A Prison Service colleague said he was "a role model" who did all he could to rehabilitate offenders.

"Adrian was a true friend and colleague. He was extremely loyal towards all who worked with him.

"His main focus was of course his family where he will be missed the most and outside of this he lived to help those in need, whether as a first aider or as part of a search and rescue team," he said.

His colleague continued: "Adrian wasn't interested in your politics or otherwise; if you needed his help you got it, no questions asked. As a prison officer, he was a role model to all. He was professional in every way, from how he dressed, to his actions and attitude towards prisoners.

"The crime they committed wasn't his main focus, but how he could help them rehabilitate and cease their offending."

Mr Ismay's most recent post within the Prison Service was as a trainer for new recruits.

His colleague continued: "Latterly as a trainer he was keen to pass on his vast experience to those just entering the Prison Service and I know that those he taught were very appreciative of his ability in this field."

"Adrian Ismay was a giant of a man in every way," he added.

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