Belfast Telegraph

Cycle of violence must end with death of young officer

Ronan Kerr's murder has united Ireland in rejection of his killers' hatred, writes Duncan Morrow

For violence to succeed, it has to look like something else - like heroism, like force, or like a great cause. Stripped of its disguise, violence can never succeed.

Because, instead of excusing the killing with the cause, everyone sees the victims and, instead of the heroism, we see the destruction, devastation and the awful waste of life and love that it leaves behind.

Ronan Kerr's murder is such a moment for this community. His decision to join the PSNI reflected a determination by a young man to help shape a new police service which could contribute to a new shared society no longer dominated by the division and conflict of the past. Crucially, for almost all of us, it is killing plain and simple - no ifs, no buts. Instead of division around causes, violence has the opposite effect: a new solidarity of the living in the face of the naked slaughter of the innocent. Of course, this murder was an attempt to restart the deeply rooted circle of fear and reprisal that has been our story for so long.

Obstruct the relationship between the PSNI and young Catholics, runs the logic, and the cycle of confrontation and discrimination, of first and second-class citizens, can begin again.

Stopping this disastrous chain matters to all those who value a shared and open society and pay more than lip-service to equality and human rights for everyone.

That is why we must ensure that the success of the PSNI in opening up recruitment to the whole of society is not reversed by intimidation or threat - in all of our interests.

The ultimate price was paid by a young man with a whole life to lead and by his family and community who will never be quite the same. In this, they join so many of the victims of violence in this small corner; marked by trauma, or 'wound', as the word originally meant in Greek.

But, as Terry Waite said last week at a Community Relations Council conference in Ballymena, trauma does not have to have the last word. From trauma can also come vital, if unexpected, growth. The growth comes in the determination to stand up for a world in which the humanity of the victim is centre-stage and the inhumanity and rationalisations of the killers are refused.

In this world, Ronan Kerr lives on as a young man who died for human rights and the right to serve the community and his killers are refused any further central role - except to be isolated at the margin of human community and denied the heroism or cause they crave.

It is, of course, tragic that it takes the catastrophic murder of a young man to expose the truth about violence and to make us all a little bit more human to one another. And it is still close to miraculous. In the space of two days, political and community leaders have taken decisions which would have been seen as politically unacceptable and little short of absurd even 10 years ago.

Tyrone GAA leads the silence in memory of a dead Northern Ireland police officer. The First Minister decides that the taboos of the past preventing his attendance at a Catholic service must be set aside in favour of the duty to honour a brave and innocent human being who has made the final sacrifice.

Election or no election, this is real leadership and these are real and profound changes, symbolising that something important is happening in our community. Instead of a chain of reprisal and fear, we have recognition of our common predicament. When Ronan Kerr's unbearably dignified mother says that Ronan should not die in vain, these are, indeed, the immediate harvest of her hopes.

Ronan has made us all realise that even the deepest causes must ultimately submit to the cause of humanity, or we will all be destroyed. Violence and hatred will not have the last word.

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