- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

BANBRIDGE, NORTHERN IRELAND (AP) - Thousands of Protestants and Catholics united with their political and security leaders Friday at the funeral of a policeman _ shot by IRA dissidents in what mourners prayed would mark the end of Northern Ireland’s “troubles.”

Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was shot through the back of the head Monday as he sat in his patrol car. He was the first policeman killed here since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord. Just two days earlier, dissidents gunned down two unarmed soldiers outside their base, the first killing of British troops here since 1997.

Catholic Canon Liam Stevenson told the mourners Friday that the attacks on British security forces, and particularly on Northern Ireland’s joint Catholic-Protestant police force, were “designed to destabilize the peace process.”

“We will not lose the peace, because so many people are so determined to move forward,” he said, adding that the attacks had brought the community together to an unprecedented degree.

Among the more than 500 mourners inside the Roman Catholic Church of St. Therese were politicians from Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that had never attended a police funeral before. The dissidents largely live in working-class Catholic districts.

Stevenson, standing beside Carroll’s white rose-covered coffin, led prayers calling for the policeman’s family to find peace in their faith, and for the community to help police catch his killers.

Hours later, police arrested a third man on suspicion of involvement in Carroll’s slaying. The suspect, who police described only being in his mid-20s, joined two other suspects _ a 17-year-old boy and 37-year-old man _ who have been in policy custody since Tuesday. No one has been charged.

The hearse bearing Carroll’s coffin took an hour to travel about 2 miles (3 kilometers) from his home to the newly built, limestone-walled Catholic Church in this predominantly Protestant town. About 20 police colleagues in dark-green uniforms and caps marched in slow step in front of the hearse as thousands of locals stood by the roadside. Banbridge’s businesses shut down for the day.

Carroll, a 23-year police veteran, was killed as his unit responded to an emergency call from a Catholic woman whose home was being attacked by stone-throwing youths. A gunman was waiting on a hill when two police units arrived, and one of two shots killed Carroll instantly.

The Northern Ireland police commander, Hugh Orde, who also spoke at the funeral, said Carroll and his police colleagues knew they had to be careful when responding to the woman’s plea for help because she lived near a hard-line Catholic district _ “a place where sometimes people try to hurt us.”

One splinter group, the Real IRA, claimed Saturday’s attack on the soldiers, which also wounded two other soldiers and two pizza delivery men; another, the Continuity IRA, admitted killing Carroll.

Both dissident camps oppose the IRA’s historic decisions to cease fire in 1997 and to renounce violence and disarm in 2005 in support of power-sharing, the central goal of the Good Friday pact. The dissidents have mounted more than 20 attacks against police officers since November 2007, wounding seven.

Carroll, who had planned to retire next year, was an English-born Catholic who joined the Northern Ireland police in 1986, when it was suffering sustained IRA attacks.

During the IRA’s 1970-97 attempt to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom, it killed nearly 300 police officers and injured thousands more.

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On the Net:

Kate Carroll interview, https://stream.u.tv/shows/news/carrollkate.wmv

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