The family of murdered prison officer David Black denounced his killers as cowards at his funeral today.
The victim, 52, was killed by suspected dissident republicans in a high-speed shooting on a motorway as he drove to work at Maghaberry prison, Co Antrim on Thursday.
He is the first prison warder killed by paramilitaries in Northern Ireland in 20 years.
Mr Black’s daughter Kyra, 17, paid tribute to her “special hero” but the married father-of-two’s extended family said they hoped the perpetrators would “get what they deserve”.
The head of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Roy Patton vowed the efforts of the gunmen to drag Northern Ireland backwards would not work.
Smartly-uniformed prison officers carried the coffin to Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Mid Ulster in military fashion behind a Scottish bagpiper who played a lament.
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson, Police Service of Northern Ireland chief constable Matt Baggott and justice ministers north and south of the Irish border attended the funeral in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
Mr Black’s cousin Jim Slaine told mourners: “The people who did this to David are cowards to the extreme.
“They have probably never done a decent day’s living, unlike the man they killed.”
He added: “We all hope that the perpetrators get what they deserve in life but we all know they will have to live with what they have done and they will meet their maker.”
Gunmen travelling in a stolen car fired on the victim’s Audi car near a junction leading to Portadown, Co Armagh, as he was on his way to Maghaberry. The car careered off the road and into a ditch.
Mr Black, who had more than 30 years’ service, was the first prison officer to die at the hands of paramilitaries since 1993.
Today’s funeral attracted thousands of people who crowded outside the doors of the packed church and into an adjoining hall.
Prison service hat, gloves and a single cream flower were carried on the union flag-draped coffin as lined officers in immaculate navy blue uniforms and hat formed a guard of honour.
Inside the church, Mr Black’s daughter Kyra had a special message: “The one thing I want you to know, I am so proud of you, you are not just today but forever my special hero.”
Mr Slaine said his cousin gave a hundred per cent to everything.
He left school at 16 and worked in a bacon factory before joining the prison service. Shortly after that he met his wife Yvonne.
Mr Black described Kyra as his little princess and wanted the best for his son. He took over a family farm and had rental properties. He put his family first.
“Above all he has done this with honesty and integrity,” his cousin said.
“I am very proud to have shared a good period of my life with this wonderful man.”
Son Kyle, 20, also had a message for the gunmen.
“They can take daddy from us … they can deprive mummy of a loving husband, but they can never take away the love that we have in our hearts and the memories that we will all cherish for the rest of our lives,” he said.
“Daddy may not be here in person but he will be with us all in the future.
“Although daddy was small in stature, he has had a large impact on the lives of everybody that loved him and has left a huge legacy, one that my mummy, Kyra and myself will be so, so proud to carry on.”