- The Washington Times - Friday, March 13, 2009

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND (AP) - Police and politicians from across Ireland assembled Friday for the funeral of a policeman killed by Irish Republican Army dissidents, a day after his widow appealed for the killers to recognize the futility of violence.

The death of Constable Stephen Carroll killing has unified leaders throughout an island longing for lasting peace. For the first time in its history, Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked political party that represents most of the north’s Catholic minority, was sending representatives to the funeral of a police officer.

Politicians from the British Protestant and Irish Catholic sides of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing coalition were being joined by senior Republic of Ireland politicians, led by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern, and senior Irish police led by Commissioner Fachtna Murphy.

All the mourners at the funeral _ held in Banbridge, southwest of Belfast _ pledged to isolate the dissidents trying to drag Northern Ireland back into its divided, deadly past.

Carroll, 48, was shot once through the back of the head as he sat in his patrol car Monday night. His slaying came two days after two off-duty British soldiers were gunned down as they collected pizzas at the entrance of their base. They were the first killings of security forces here since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord.

One splinter group, the Real IRA, claimed the first attack; another, the Continuity IRA, admitted the second. Both dissident camps oppose the IRA’s historic decisions to cease fire in 1997 and renounce violence and disarm in 2005 in support of power-sharing, the central goal of the Good Friday pact.

Sinn Fein lawmaker John O’Dowd said he and other party officials were attending the funeral to demonstrate their support for law and order in this British territory. During its 1970-97 attempt to force Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom, the IRA killed nearly 300 police officers and injured thousands more.

O’Dowd said he wanted to send a signal to Catholics that they should support Northern Ireland’s traditionally Protestant police force.

The slain officer illustrated that stereotype was never fully accurate. He was an English-born Catholic who joined the Northern Ireland police in 1986 when officers were suffering sustained IRA attacks.

Carroll planned to retire next year from a force that, as part of wider peacemaking goals, has been heavily recruiting from the Irish Catholic side of the community and lowering its security measures.

His widow, Kate, described her final doorway conversation with her husband of 25 years as he left for his evening shift Monday, wondering as he departed if the dissidents might attack his unit that night.

“I said to him: ‘Steve, you take care, you just keep your head down.’

“And he said to me: ‘Kate … I’ve been through all the worst times. Wouldn’t it be ironic if something happened now just before _’

“And I says, ‘Steve, don’t talk like that please, I don’t want to hear that,’” she told Ulster Television. “I kissed him, and that was the last I seen of him.”

The widow said she hoped public revulsion at the killing might persuade dissidents to see the futility of their violence. She said it would be “worth it” if her husband proved to be the last fatality from the Northern Ireland conflict.

“If they (IRA dissidents) just realized that we only get one chance at life, and a piece of land is a piece of land. … My husband is just going to get 6 foot by 6 foot, and that’s all any of us are going to get,” she said.


On the Net:

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

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