`Killed by enemies of justice'

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The Independent Online
THE FUNERAL passed over the very spot where the bomb went off on Monday, mutilating Rosemary Nelson's body, sending her silver BMW careering into a wall and creating a new martyr for Irish nationalists.

The cortege started off from her home in Lurgan, Co Armagh yesterday, taking the same route as she had on the last journey of her life. The relatives who bore her coffin and the mourners who trudged after it passed over the small hole which was gouged out of the roadway by the bomb blast.

Then they wheeled slowly out of her oddly English, mock-Tudor housing estate, Ashford Grange, past the remains of the wall where the firemen had carried out the terrible task of cutting her dying body out of the mangled car. Little bunches of flowers had been left by the wall and more bouquets were taken to her office.

From Ashford Grange the funeral passed Tannaghmore primary school where Sarah Nelson, eight, heard the explosion which left her without a mother. Outside the school Sarah's classmates lined both sides of the road as the mourners shuffled past in the cold morning sunshine.

Next along the route came black flags, hung out by residents of the working- class Kilwilkie estate in tribute to the lawyer who represented so many of them in their skirmishes with officialdom.

That is probably why the bomb was placed under her car with such care and such hate. It is almost certain that in targeting her, the loyalist assassins thought they might strengthen the Orange cause in the Drumcree marching dispute in neighbouring Portadown. It is also true that they oppose the Good Friday Agreement and want to bring it down. But the primary motivation for the attack was probably raw sectarianism, the desire to strike at the local Catholic and nationalist community by removing a woman who was becoming one of its foremost advocates.

In the face of such hatred, Rosemary Nelson's sons displayed real character and something close to heroism when, inside St Peter's Church, they held their shock and grief in check to speak of their mother.

Eleven-year-old Gavin said proudly: "My mum was a brilliant solicitor and friend, and whenever you were in need of help she was right there by your side. However, we her family know her as the best mother, wife, daughter and sister anyone could ever wish for."

The priest called for an independent inquiry into Mrs Nelson's death. Outside, those unable to get into the church had no need of such an investigation: they nearly all firmly believe the Royal Ulster Constabulary must have had something to do with it. Overall the mood was stoical and sombre, with a thirst for vengeance in the air.

There had been overnight rioting and petrol-bombing in Portadown involving nationalists, loyalists and police, and one mourner, councillor Brendan McKenna, bore a conspicuous wound.

Last night, the skirmishes continued. In Portadown, police sealed off both ends of the Garvaghy Road in an attempt to contain the disturbances involving up to 200 nationalists who pelted officers with stones and petrol bombs. Cars were hijacked and were being used as barricades around the Garvaghy Park and Ballyoran Hill.

Meanwhile, the Police Complaints Commission for Northern Ireland has expressed "serious concern" about the way the RUC investigated complaints made by Mrs Nelson.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Mo Mowlam, said the commission registered its concern in its annual report, published yesterday, after raising it with her and the RUC Chief Constable, Sir Ronnie Flanagan, last summer. Sir Ronnie has now ordered further investigations.

With pressure mounting on the peace process, the United States President, Bill Clinton, the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and the Irish Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern, will today publish an unprecedented joint declaration which puts pressure on the Unionist leader, David Trimble, to compromise over the demands for arms decommissioning by the IRA before Good Friday. The statement - issued in Washington, London and Dublin - will take some of the pressure off Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein president, by making only passing reference to decommissioning, saying only that "vital work to achieve progress" continues.

The next weeks will see crucial talks aimed at making the Good Friday Agreement work. The hope is that Rosemary Nelson's death, rather than sending the factions back to their trenches, spurs them to cement an agreement.