A country town in the North came to a standstill today for the funeral of the policeman murdered by dissident republicans.
Many hundreds of police officers, past and present, attended the service for Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, who was gunned down in Craigavon, Co. Armagh, by the Continuity IRA on Monday night.
Shops in the centre of Banbridge, County Down, closed their doors as a mark of respect as Con. Carroll’s coffin, behind a Police Service of Northern Ireland colour party, was taken from his home to St Therese’s Catholic church for the funeral mass.
Several hundred people gathered outside the Carroll home while a brief family service was held inside for the constable’s widow Kate and other family members.
Hundreds of local people lined streets – closed to traffic – in silence as the funeral cortege passed.
The North's police chief Hugh Orde and many senior officers were joined at the service by the Garda Commissioner, Fachtna Murphy, together with police representatives from England, Scotland and Wales and the president of the UK's Association of Chief Police Officers.
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and security minister Paul Goggins were joined by Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and a representative of the US administration.
Leaders of the four main churches and representatives of all the main political parties attended.
But it was the presence of two Sinn Féin politicians at a policeman’s funeral for the first time that showed how far the North has come in recent years.
South Belfast Assembly member Alex Maskey is a member of the Policing Board and his Sinn Féin colleague John O’Dowd represents the Upper Bann constituency in which Con. Carroll died.
Mr O’Dowd said: “First of all, this is an act of solidarity and an act of sympathy with Constable Carroll’s family.
“It is also about giving leadership in relation to this issue and giving very public voice to the condemnation which the whole community feels.
“We have built a new society. Part of that was the building of the PSNI and Constable Carroll was part of that new society.”
Across the modern circular church was a long-time foe of Republicanism, Jackie McDonald, recognised as the leader of the Ulster Defence Association.
Mr McDonald said: “We have come to show support for the Carroll family and to let everybody know that loyalism is against this sort of thing.”
He praised Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and other party colleagues for their forthright condemnation of the murder of Con. Carroll and two British soldiers 48 hours before.
He said: “They have been very brave. It is obviously a new language for them and I think they have reassured the loyalist community that this is not about Orange and Green, it is about those who support the peace process, it is about uniting everybody.”
He added: “We are 100% behind the peace process and we are not going to be put off by the actions of a few.”
Calling for no loyalist retaliation, he said: “Just listen to the people who have been there before and done it.”