NI Prison Officer Shot

November 1, 2012 by  

NI Prison Officer Shot, Police at the scene of David Black’s death on the M1 motorway in Northern Ireland. Photograph: Caters News Agency, Dissident republicans are believed to have shot dead a Northern Ireland prison officer in a motorway ambush.

David Black, who had worked in the Northern Ireland Prison Service for more than 30 years and was nearing retirement, was shot dead on Thursday on the M1 between Lurgan and Portadown in County Armagh.

In what has been described as an ambush, Black, from Cookstown, Co Tyrone, was killed after shots were fired into the car as he drove to work at the top-security Maghaberry jail near Lisburn, Co Antrim, which holds several key republican dissident prisoners.

There are unconfirmed reports that a gunman leaned out of a passing car and fired an automatic weapon on the prison officer’s vehicle in front of early-morning commuters.

Security sources and local politicians blamed anti-ceasefire republicans for the murder. The father of two is the first prison officer to be murdered by paramilitaries since 1993. The killing has sparked fears of an upsurge in dissident republican violence across Northern Ireland.

Expressing concern about the threat of further terror attacks, Terry Spence, the chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland, warned: “Prison officers and police officers alike are aware of the deadly threat from dissident terrorists who won’t face up to the fact that Northern Ireland has moved on and will not go back to its awful past. We must all be totally vigilant about our personal safety.”

The Northern Ireland secretary, Theresa Villiers, condemned the incident as “a cowardly and evil attack”.

The Stormont first minister, Peter Robinson, and deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness, also condemned the murder. “At this time, our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved family and we condemn this murder in the strongest possible terms,” they said in a joint statement.

“There can be no justification for this brutal attack as this man was going about his daily life. People who work for the Prison Service play a crucial role in our community and any attack on them is an attack on all of us.

“Actions like this have no place in society and those who carried out this murder have nothing positive to contribute, and we refuse to let the people behind this attack divert us from building a better and peaceful future for everyone.

“We appeal to anyone with any information on this murder to contact the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland].”

Matt Baggott, the PSNI chief constable, said: “It was a completely senseless attack. It demonstrated the recklessness and ruthlessness and sheer dangerousness of those who oppose peace and are dedicated to taking us back to those dark days of the past.”

David Ford, Northern Ireland’s justice minister, said: “This is a horrific murder, for which there can be no justification, and it will be rightly condemned by all those across Northern Ireland. At its very core this is a human tragedy. A man has lost his life this morning and a family are grieving the loss of their loved one. My thoughts are also with the wider Prison Service family.”

Paul Girvan, a Democratic Unionist party member of the Northern Ireland assembly, said Black was on his way to begin duty at the Maghaberry, where dissident republicans have been involved in long-running protests against jail conditions.

A burnt-out car was later found in the Inglewood area of Lurgan and is being linked to the shooting, the security sources said.

The Lurgan-North Armagh area is a base for the Continuity IRA, which killed the first ever member of the PSNI in a terrorist shooting in 2009.

The local SDLP assembly member Dolores Kelly said the entire community was very anxious at the return of paramilitary murder to North Armagh.

She added: “This incident is sickening and disturbing, not to mention reminiscent of the worst moments of the last 40 years. The dark forces behind this disgusting murder, which will wreak devastation on the lives of those affected, do not represent the overwhelming majority of people in the north of Ireland and will not achieve anything by taking a life – any life.”

Jeffrey Donaldson, MP for Lagan Valley, said: “This is a terrible tragedy. Once again, a small minority are trying to drag us back to the dark days.”

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