By Jonathan Isaby
This afternoon, Owen Paterson, the Northern Ireland Secretary, made a statement to the Commons on the tragic incident. He paid tribute to the murdered officer – the victim of a "revolting and cowardly act" – and said that no-one involved in democratic politics would allow it to destroy the stability which Northern Ireland now enjoys.
He told the Commons:
"I am sure that the whole House will join with me in sending our deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of this brave young officer. He was a local man, who having gained a university degree, decided upon a career in the Police Service of Northern Ireland. He dedicated his life to the service of the whole community. The terrorists who murdered him want to destroy that community. The contrast could not be clearer.
"These terrorists continue to target police officers and endanger the lives of the public. We all pay tribute to the remarkable commitment of the PSNI and the Garda and to their success in thwarting a number of recent attacks. Working seamlessly together, last year they charged 80 people with terrorist offences compared with 17 in 2009. But regrettably, on Saturday, a device exploded killing Constable Kerr. His murder was a revolting and cowardly act perpetrated by individuals intent on defying the wishes of the people.
"Following Saturday’s attack, the PSNI immediately began a painstaking murder inquiry; the House will understand that this meticulous work is still in the early stages. I saw the Chief Constable yesterday and I know that the PSNI, working closely with the Garda Siochana, will not rest until these evil people are brought to justice. I would reiterate in the strongest terms the Chief Constable’s appeal for anyone with any information to bring it to the police. The PSNI have support from right across the community and are responsible to locally elected politicians.
"Just over a year ago, we strongly supported the previous Government’s determination to devolve policing and justice. We also backed the very significant financial package that accompanied it. After the election we endorsed proposals for a further £50m for the PSNI specifically to confront the threat. In the national security strategy, published last October, we made countering these terrorist groups a tier-one priority. We have agreed an exceptional £200 million of additional funding over four years, as requested by the Chief Constable, so that he can plan ahead with certainty. As the Prime Minister said on Saturday: 'the British Government stands fully behind the Chief Constable and his officers as they work to protect Northern Ireland from terrorism’.
"This cannot be done by a security response alone – crucial as that is. It can only be resolved in the long term by the community itself together with strong leadership by local politicians. That leadership was evident again this morning when the First and Deputy First Ministers, and the Justice Minister, stood as one with the Chief Constable to reiterate their determination that these terrorists will never succeed. They all called for active support of the PSNI. They spoke for the people of Northern Ireland. And their condemnation of this grotesque murder has been echoed in London, Dublin and Washington.
"Our clear and united message to these terrorists is that they will not de-stabilise the power sharing institutions at Stormont; they will not deter young Catholic men and women from joining the police service; and they will not drag Northern Ireland back to the past.
"Thirteen years ago the Agreement was endorsed by overwhelming majorities in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. That was the true democratic voice of the people of Ireland, North and South. It is they who will above all ensure that the terrorists fail. And as the visit of Her Majesty The Queen will shortly reinforce, relations within these islands have never been stronger.
"Today, politics in Northern Ireland is stable. The democratic process is established. An Assembly has completed its first full term in decades. At the elections in May, voters will choose their politicians to serve in the new Assembly based on everyday bread and butter issues. This is democracy in action.
"Those who murdered Police Constable Ronan Kerr fear democracy. The Omagh bomb in 1998 did not destroy the peace process. The terrorists failed then and they will fail now. They will not deflect us from our shared determination to build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Northern Ireland for everyone.
"In the powerful and moving words of Constable Kerr’s mother yesterday: ‘We were so proud of Ronan and all that he stood for. Don’t let his death be in vain’."