It's time to stand up and be counted
The passing of Constable Ronan Kerr poses a challenge to everyone in Northern Ireland. He was a young Ulsterman prepared to make his contribution towards a more peaceful society but he has paid the ultimate price with his life at the hands of callous killers. How can we ensure that the fair and just society he sought as a police officer is truly achieved and that those who seek to reverse the progress which has been made are isolated and rejected, as they must be?
We may despair that there are still people in our midst with nothing to offer other than further misery and the destruction of life, but we should also take comfort from the unanimity of purpose of our political and community leaders at Constable Kerr's funeral today.
Never before has Northern Ireland witnessed such cross-community determination and such united support for the forces of law and order. It is as if every act of barbarity serves to encourage more people to show revulsion and rejection of violence.
The poignant messages of Nuala Kerr and Kate Carroll have been inspirational. In their terrible personal losses of a son and husband respectively, these two women have spoken volumes for a better future for us all.
The outpouring of sympathy and grief which was evident after the murders of two soldiers at Antrim and of Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon now manifests itself in the funeral cortege in County Tyrone today. The presence of the First and Deputy First Ministers together is yet another symbolic step towards a more united Northern Ireland.
Political differences at Stormont are put in a new perspective. Whatever party and personality frictions exist, they pale against the loss of the constable's life and the courageous words of his mother urging us all not to turn back. The message from this tragic week is simple. Stand up and be counted for peace.