Booby trap bomb kills policeman in Northern Ireland

Catholic officer from Omagh is first member of security services to be murdered in two years

A Northern Ireland police officer was killed in a car-bomb explosion outside his home in Omagh, Co Tyrone, yesterday. Ronan Kerr, a 25-year-old Catholic member of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), was killed at the scene.

The PSNI later arrested a 28-year-old man for "possession of a firearm held in suspicious circumstances". The man, from the Portadown area, was taken to a police station for further questioning.

Mr Kerr, described by distraught colleagues as a "modern-day hero" who had made an "indelible mark" on the community, was caught by a booby-trap bomb that exploded under his car. It went off just before 4pm, outside his home in Killyclogher, one mile from Omagh.

David Cameron, the Prime Minister, said last night: "I utterly condemn the murder of a young police officer who had dedicated himself to serving the entire community of Northern Ireland. This is a terrible tragedy for all who knew him and for a town that had already suffered so much."

He added: "Those who carried out this wicked and cowardly crime will never succeed in dragging Northern Ireland back to a dark and bloody past. Their actions are rejected by the overwhelming majority of people from all parts of the community. We, with our partners in the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish government, stand four-square behind the people of Northern Ireland, who have said time and again they want a peaceful, shared future."

The Irish President, Mary McAleese, said: "This heinous crime will not succeed in its evil intent of destroying the peaceful and democratic future to which the people of Northern Ireland are so clearly committed."

Northern Ireland's First Minister, Peter Robinson, said: "He was a young man who was bravely entering the police service, recognising that he was putting his life on the line. I have absolutely no doubt the overwhelming number in Northern Ireland want to move on."

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "Whoever carried out this act offer nothing to the community and have no role to play in our future. They have betrayed the community and set themselves against the will of the people of Ireland. No cause is served by this act and let no excuse be acknowledged."

The Sinn Fein president, Gerry Adams, said his thoughts were with the family of the police officer. "Sinn Fein is determined that those responsible will not set back the progress of the peace and political process."

The SDLP chairman, Joe Byrne, said it was a brutal attack. "Violence is never acceptable. The people of Omagh are stunned," he added.

Since 2007, dissident republicans have planted dozens of booby-trap bombs under the private cars of police officers. In the majority of cases, they fail to detonate. But in May 2008 and January 2010, two policemen lost their legs in attacks.

Mr Kerr is the first member of security services to be killed in Northern Ireland in more than two years. Stephen Carroll, an officer with the PSNI, was shot dead while on patrol in nearby Craigavon in March 2009.

The latest incident comes at a critical stage for the newly formed PSNI. Last week, the British government said the PSNI would no longer be required to hire Catholic applicants in preference to Protestants, in an effort to lift the affirmative action policy, which had been in force since 2001. The Northern Ireland Secretary, Owen Paterson, said the policy could no longer be justified, since the percentage of Catholic officers in the PSNI had increased to 29.76 per cent, compared with 8.3 per cent in 2001.

Reform of Northern Ireland's overwhelmingly Protestant police force was a central goal of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Last year, a coalition of local parties, including Sinn Fein, received control of the Northern Ireland justice system from Britain, further boosting Catholic involvement in the police.

The attack in Omagh is a chilling reminder of the afternoon of 15 August 1988, when Northern Ireland suffered its single bloodiest attack during the 30-year Troubles. A 500lb car bomb exploded in the centre of Omagh, killing 29 people.

Nobody has been successfully prosecuted for the attack, which was carried out by a Republican splinter group, the Real IRA. In June 2009, victims' families won a £1.6m civil action against four unconvicted suspects.

The judge in the case found Michael McKevitt, who is serving a sentence for directing terrorism for the Real IRA, responsible for the attack. Liam Campbell, Colm Murphy and Seamus Daly were also held liable.

Suggested Topics
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
life
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
voices
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
Sport
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
athletics
Life and Style
Walking tall: unlike some, Donatella Versace showed a strong and vibrant collection
fashionAlexander Fury on the staid Italian clothing industry
Arts and Entertainment
Gregory Porter learnt about his father’s voice at his funeral
music
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
Children at the Leytonstone branch of the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society tuck into their harvest festival gifts, in October 1936
food + drinkThe harvest festival is back, but forget cans of tuna and packets of instant mash
Sport
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam