Death of Adrian Ismay casts pall over all that's positive in a changed Northern Ireland
Simple human decency demands that we offer our condolences and sympathy to the family of prison officer Adrian Ismay who died suddenly yesterday, 11 days after miraculously escaping with his life when a bomb exploded under his van in a Belfast street.
He was recuperating at home after being discharged from hospital when he suffered a heart attack. In a strict legal sense that could rule out a charge of murder if the perpetrators of the bombing are apprehended, but in the minds of the general public there is no doubt that he would still be alive today had he not been targeted by dissident republicans and that they, in effect, killed him.
It was a cowardly attack on a man who did much to serve the community, not only in his professional capacity but also as a volunteer with search and rescue teams, providing medical cover at race meetings and working for more than a decade with the St John Ambulance organisation.
Not only did those who planned the crime and planted the bomb attempt to kill him, but they also tried to blacken his name in a spurious attempt to justify their despicable act. However, those who worked with him and who knew him were quick to dismiss the allegations levelled against him.
Mr Ismay's death came like a bolt out of clear blue sky, a beautiful day clouded by the consequence of a senseless and vile act.
The dissident republicans have little support, no agenda, no strategy and no hope of ever achieving anything. They are either deluded or simply nihilistic, caring not what grief their actions bring but determined to strike out at targets like police and prison officers.
Their republicanism is not acceptable to the overwhelming majority of people in any part of this island, and to ramp up their attacks as we approach Easter and the actual centenary of the Easter Rising - as police fear they will - is to debase a legitimate celebration of long-ago events which eventually resulted in the formation of the Irish Republic.
Mr Ismay's death - he is the second prison officer to die at the hands of dissidents after David Black was shot dead in 2012 - comes more than 20 years after the ending of the Troubles and a whole generation of young people have grown up unaware of the horrors of those days. They certainly don't want their future blighted by any attempt to return to that dark period.
The First and Deputy First Ministers are in America hoping to sell the positive story of the new Northern Ireland to potential inward investors. That is the way to build the future for our young people. They have a success story to tell about the changed political atmosphere in the province, but it is tarnished by this death. However, it is the personal grief of the Ismay family circle - Mr Ismay was about to become a grandfather - which is the most poignant story at this time.