Today thousands of people, from all walks of life came together in Omagh in an act of solidarity with the family of Ronan Kerr. They were also determined to demonstrate their opposition and defiance of those responsible for Ronan’s murder last weekend and the placing of a bomb near Newry.
One week ago, last Sunday it was Mother’s Day. For families in Omagh, and across Ireland and around the world it was a day when they spoiled and pampered their mothers.
But for the Kerr family Mother’s Day was tragically different. Instead of celebrating together Nuala Kerr was in front of television cameras, standing with her children, Dairine, Cathair and Aaron, and speaking with love and affection about her son Ronan who had been murdered the previous day.
The shock and the tragedy and trauma were etched on their faces. Despite this Nuala Kerr spoke strongly and clearly.
Her message was simple and her assertion that we all need to stand up and be counted struck exactly the right note. It was a message of courage and of hope.
It was about people “striving for a neutral police force for the good of our country”. Nuala Kerr asked “all Catholic members not to be deterred” and she said, “we all need to stand up and be counted and to strive for equality. We don’t want to go back to the dark days again of fear and terror.”
And she is right.
We all have to stand up and be counted for our families, four our community and for a better future.
We have to stand up for equality and a non partisan, civic policing service in the north.
And we have to confront and challenge those responsible for Ronan Kerr’s murder.
On Wednesday last I travelled to Beragh to attend Ronan’s funeral.
It was a terribly sad occasion but it was also very remarkable.
The imagery, even for this part of Ireland were there have been some noteworthy events, was significant. All of the leaders of the main political parties on this island – unionist and nationalist and republican – were present.
Also present where the church leaders and community leaders and ordinary citizens, many of them neighbours of the Kerr family.
But what made it stand out was the interweaving of community, of politicians, of GAA, of family, of school children, and of PSNI.
Ronan’s remains were carried by his friends in Beragh’s Craobh Rua GAA club; by his colleagues in the PSNI; by senior figures from the GAA, including Tyrone manager Mickey Harte and then by his family into St. Oliver Plunkett’s Church.
By their presence and participation all sections of Irish society were giving expression to their abhorrence and outrage at the actions of a small number of anti-peace groups who remain trapped in the past and offer nothing for the future.
But if we are to end the pointless and futile violence of these groups we have to go beyond condemnation. Yesterday I spelt out my view of these small groups and asked the very few people who support or tolerate their actions to think again.
I am an optimist by nature. The logic of the arguments in support of the peace process and its ability to deliver an end to partition and Irish reunification are overwhelming.
Will they listen? I don’t know. But we cannot acquiesce to the violence of the few. Nor can we allow a tiny minority to undermine the opportunity to advance our republican objectives.
So, Nuala Kerr is right. We all have to make a stand.