Dark deed of Adrian Ismay's killers won't drag us back to past, funeral told
The President of the Methodist Church has told dissident Republicans the overwhelming majority of people here utterly reject the "dark" men who murdered prison officer Adrian Ismay in east Belfast earlier this month.
Speaking yesterday at a funeral service in the Shankill Road area of the city, Rev Brian Anderson, who visited the Ismay family, told the killers: "We stand against what you have done. We want to a build an inclusive, peaceful society. And your contribution to it, we do not want."
First Minister Arlene Foster, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers and Chief Constable George Hamilton were among the 800 mourners, but Mr Ismay's family declined an offer from Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness to attend.
SDLP deputy leader Fearghal McKinney was inside Woodvale Methodist church, which was too small to accommodate all the mourners. Hundreds of people filled a nearby church hall and stood on the streets to hear the service relayed by loudspeakers.
They heard Mr Anderson condemn the killers of the English-born Falklands war veteran (below), known to his friends as Izzy. "In the darkest part of night, probably dressed in dark clothes, dark men did a dark, dark deed, bringing us to this place today, leading to the loss of Izzy, causing us to travel through the valley of the shadow of death," he said.
Mr Ismay who trained new recruits to the Prison Service, died 11 days after he was injured by a bomb under his van. The father-of-three was released from hospital but died suddenly after a blood clot triggered a heart attack.
Mr Anderson said Mr Ismay's family would not want anyone else to go through their ordeal. "It is incumbent on us as a society to ensure that those men who represent a time in our past don't get any fuel," he added.
He told how Mr Ismay, a Cumbrian who came to Northern Ireland in his time with the Royal Navy, had contributed much to society as a public servant and through his voluntary work as a search and rescue worker. "It was a life that overcame the darkness because it helped and assisted so many people in life," he said.
"We want to acknowledge the great work that our Prison Service does along with other services that keep the peace in our land."
Mr Ismay (52) was the second prison officer to be murdered by the New IRA. The family of David Black, who was shot dead as he travelled on the M1 motorway to his work in Maghaberry jail in 2012, were present at yesterday's funeral. Also there was Kate Carroll, whose husband Stephen was the first member of the PSNI to be murdered by dissidents, in 2009.
The minister of Woodvale Methodist Church, the Rev Colin Duncan, said the Prison Service was like a family. "We can see the grieving that has been across the organisation for the loss of a friend, colleague and a valued member of the service," he added. "The fact Izzy was targeted for being a prison officer must be a cause of deep grief and concern."
But he said the grief and concern were also being expressed more widely because Mr Ismay was targeted in a way that "we all hoped was a thing of the past".
Mr Duncan said he had been deeply touched by the comments of a woman who took part last week in a regular prayer meeting between Catholics and Protestants in the shadow of the north Belfast peace wall. "In a cry which seemed to come from the depths of her heart and her soul, she said, 'Please God do not let us go back to those days' and she just seemed to speak for a large part of our population," he explained.
Turning to Mr Ismay's family, the cleric said: "Yours has been a difficult journey, from the shock and the horror of the bombing to the hope in his recovery and to the unbelief in his death, so suddenly and so unexpectedly."
Mr Anderson revealed that after the blast which injured Mr Ismay, the former St John Ambulance volunteer had actually advised paramedics who went to his aid on what they should be doing.
After the funeral service Mr Ismay was taken to Roselawn for a private cremation.