‘Plead with your children never to turn to violence’
An edited version of the address given yesterday by Cardinal Sean Brady
We gather today to pay our respects to Constable Ronan Kerr. We have prayed that Ronan will know the peace of God’s eternal love in the home that Jesus has prepared for him.
We are here to sympathise with his mother Nuala, his sister Dairine and brothers Aaron and Cathair. May you find comfort and strength in Christ’s promise that one day you shall see Ronan again and enjoy his friendship and love.
May you also be helped and consoled by the presence of this congregation, representing as it does so many strata of society, civil and religious alike. May the support and admiration, expressed for Ronan and for all of you, at national and international level, over these days, ease the burden of grief and sorrow which you feel at this time.
Fifteen years ago, almost to the day — April 9, 1996 — I had the privilege of confirming Ronan here in this church. He took the name Paul, in honour of the Apostle Paul, as his confirmation name. The same Paul who said that “nothing can come between us and the love of God, made visible in Christ Jesus”. The same Paul who said that “God co-operates with all those who love him by turning everything to their good”. That is the challenge now for all of us who remain. To co-operate with God in transforming the evil of Ronan’s murder into the good that Ronan’s life represents.
Guided by the spirit of the living God, Ronan proceeded on the journey of life. He went from here to Omagh CBS and to university. He did so many other things as well. He played Gaelic games; he became a respected young man in the community.
Then the opportunity came his way to play his part in building the peace. He was offered the possibility of joining the PSNI, a profession charged with the safety, welfare and protection of the rights of all in our society. Imbued with the family spirit of public service Ronan took that opportunity. Of course he knew the risks involved but one of the gifts he received on the day of his confirmation was courage.
Ronan Kerr was obviously a man of exceptional courage. Today I pay tribute to the courage and noble ideals of people who work in the public service — in the Police Service, in the Health Service; and in the Fire and Rescue Service and many others. They deserve our gratitude and our support. We offer that to them today with admiration and respect.
Unfortunately there are some people who do not believe that Ronan should have joined the PSNI. They have a right to hold that view. But the freedom to hold that view also brings with it a great responsibility.
It brings the duty to respect the will of the overwhelming majority of the people. And the people have said no, never again, to the evil and futility of violence. They have said an empathetic no to the murder and mayhem of the past. Let there be no doubt that the killing of Ronan Kerr was totally unjustified. It was an evil deed, an offence against God and a complete rejection of the belief that human life is sacred.
There have been many defining moments in the ongoing journey towards reconciliation and peace. No doubt there will be many more. That is the nature of a process. But today, as we honour the courage of this valiant young man, may we all resolve to make this a defining moment in our own lives. We must never become complacent about choosing good and rejecting evil. Let us resolve to do everything in our power to bring about the brighter future which the young people of this land deserve.
Of course there is now a whole generation of young people who have no memory of the Troubles and the sufferings of the past. We should resist the temptation to glamorise the dreadful pain and sorrow of that past. Parents and grandparents, I beg you, plead with your children and with your grandchildren, not to get involved with violence. Never let them be deceived by those who say that Ireland will be united or the Union made more secure by war. They are wrong. It is an illusion. Violence has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer except misery and destruction.
Choose life, I say, choose goodness, choose peace. That is what God is asking of you. That is what the people of all traditions have been saying to all of us, loud and clear, since the moment of Ronan’s tragic death on Saturday last. We do not want this, you do not act in our name. In God’s name stop – and stop now.