Ronan Kerr’s death will make us work for better future
Mourners at the funeral of Ronan Kerr heard that his death will unite the people of Northern Ireland to work for the “future good of all”.
Constable Kerr (25) was laid to rest yesterday, four days after a bomb exploded under his car as he left for work.
The brutal killing of the young Catholic officer has sparked a united outpouring of grief and condemnation across the province.
In a stark message to his killers PSNI officers stood side-by-side with GAA members to form a guard of honour, and to take turns as pall-bearers as his coffin was carried into the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in his hometown of Beragh, Co Tyrone.
The guard of honour was completed by pupils from Omagh’s Loreto Convent and Christian Brothers grammar schools, as well as local primary schools.
United in grief, his friends from across the political divide showed their support for the Kerr family.
Political leaders from all four main parties attended the funeral and First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Taoiseach Enda Kenny arrived together.
Secretary of State Owen Paterson and Justice Minister David Ford were also there, as well as Policing Board members Basil McCrea, Jimmy Spratt and Alex Maskey.
PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott, and the Garda Commissioner, Martin Callinan, attended the funeral, as did Kate Carroll, whose husband Stephen was murdered by the CIRA while on duty in Craigavon two years ago.
As the funeral cortege made its way up the main street led by police outriders, a single bell tolled solemnly.
His heartbroken family clung to each other for support, as hundreds of mourners followed behind the coffin, carried alternately by members of Constable Kerr’s GAA club, Beragh Red Knights, and PSNI colleagues.
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte – whose daughter Michaela was murdered on honeymoon in Mauritius earlier this year – also helped carry the coffin, alongside GAA president Christie Cooney.
Placed on top of the coffin were Constable Kerr’s police cap and gloves.
Fr John Skinnader, a family friend, read a touching homily, in which he described moments in Constable Kerr’s childhood and a chance meeting with him in his patrol car just two weeks ago.
He described him as a young man who “loved life”, was a fan of Gaelic football, Manchester United and a car enthusiast, and who from an early age had an interest in the police.
He said as a child he would hide in the bushes with his brothers and pretend to radio the number plates of passing cars to an imaginary control room back at the house.
“Ronan and most of his generation are proud of their culture and their faith tradition, but for them it is a faith and a tradition without walls, that is inclusive not exclusive, that unites rather than divides,” Fr Skinnader said.
The theme of standing united against violence was echoed in Cardinal Brady’s sermon, in a powerful message he begged people not to get involved with violence or glamorise the violence of the past.
“Violence has nothing, absolutely nothing, to offer except misery and destruction. In God’s name stop – and stop now,” he said.
In one of the most poignant moments of the service Constable Kerr’s brother Aaron broke down in tears as he read a poem to the congregation in which he promised they would “never be apart”.
The clouds parted and the sun shone through as the grief-stricken mourners emerged from the church.
Constable Kerr’s mother Nuala and sister Dairine held each other as his brothers and relatives lifted the coffin into the air once more.
The Stormont and Dail leaders were escorted to the front of the cortege where they shook hands with Constable Kerr’s family.
There was silence in the air as the funeral cortege made its way down the street, where Constable Kerr’s coffin was placed in the flower-adorned hearse and taken for interment at the Church of St Patrick in Drumduff, not far from the family home.