BANBRIDGE, Northern Ireland – Thousands of Protestants and Catholics united with their political and security leaders Friday at the funeral of a policeman – who was shot by IRA dissidents – in what mourners prayed would mark the end of Northern Ireland’s “troubles.”
Constable Stephen Carroll, 48, was shot in the head Monday as he sat in his patrol car. He was the first policeman killed here since 1998, the year of Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace accord. Just two days earlier, dissidents gunned down two unarmed soldiers outside their base, the first killing of British troops here since 1997.
Catholic Canon Liam Stevenson told the mourners Friday that the attacks on British security forces, and particularly on Northern Ireland’s joint Catholic-Protestant police force, were “designed to destabilize the peace process.”
“We will not lose the peace, because so many people are so determined to move forward,” he said, adding that the attacks had brought the community together to an unprecedented degree.
Among the more than 500 mourners inside the Roman Catholic Church of St. Therese were politicians from Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party that had never attended a police funeral before. The dissidents largely live in working-class Catholic districts.
Hours later, police arrested a third man on suspicion of involvement in Carroll’s slaying.
Already, a 17-year-old boy and a 37-year-old are in custody but haven’t been charged.
A splinter group, the Real IRA, claimed responsibility for last Saturday’s attack on the soldiers. Another such group, the Continuity IRA, admitted killing Carroll.