The shooting dead of a police officer in Northern Ireland earlier this week was not murder, a spokesman for the political wing of the Continuity IRA (CIRA) declared yesterday.
In the face of the strong wave of condemnation that has followed the shooting by the CIRA, Richard Walsh, publicity director for Republican Sinn Fein (RSF), said: "It's inevitable that this was going to happen."
The authorities on both sides of the border view RSF as the CIRA's political mouthpiece. Mr Walsh has in the past rejected the description of previous gun attacks on police as murder attempts, saying: "There were simply a number of military engagements designed to kill them."
Asked if he stood by this description in relation to the death of Constable Stephen Carroll in Co Armagh, he replied: "I certainly don't recognise it as murder, no." And on the declaration of Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness that those who carried out the killing were "traitors to the island of Ireland", he responded: "Well, I think he'd need to look closer to home for who are the traitors, frankly.
"I haven't really heard any real reaction to it other than what's in the papers, and I think a lot of that is scripted, to be honest, choreographed. I wouldn't say I'm surprised by it."
Mr Walsh's almost nonchalant comments will be seen as illustrating the degree of isolation among dissident republicans in the face of the remarkable hardening of opinion against such groups.
Yesterday saw emotional scenes as a police escort brought PC Carroll's coffin to his home in Banbridge, Co Down, where it was received by his wife Kate.
And family and friends of the two soldiers killed by other dissidents visited the scene of their deaths at Massereene army base near Antrim. They were accompanied by senior personnel from the soldiers' unit, 38 Engineer Regiment.
A tribute was paid to the policeman by a former colleague, ex-chief superintendent Brian McCargo, who described him as a "good, honest, decent guy". "He was always willing to help, always the first to put his hand up and volunteer to help you," he said. "He never courted publicity, never was the centre of attention, and he, more than anybody, would be surprised today that he is the now a centre of attention throughout the world."
The police hunt continued yesterday for the gunmen involved in the two incidents. Police were questioning a 37-year-old man and a 17-year-old youth about the murder of PC Carroll. No one has yet been charged.
The youth's mother and stepfather yesterday protested his innocence. "My son is innocent – the only gun he has ever used is a toy and I know that he will be released," said his mother. "But that does not mean it will be over for him or for us. I am very afraid that we will become targets because people would think that he has the mark of Cain.
"I live near a loyalist estate, I have a 16-year-old daughter who has friends there. But now we have to ask her not to go there because something may happen. A Catholic girl, who used to go out with a Protestant boy, was murdered there by loyalists. That was a long time ago, but we are in a very dangerous time again now. I am really scared."
His stepfather, who lives in a nearby flat, said: "I do not know what the loyalists might do. I am now very worried about going out. Our boy is not political. He listened to republican songs but he was not active in any way. He has never been a member of the Real IRA. But all our lives will be very difficult after this."Reuse content