23 February 2023

NI political leaders: No tolerance for such attacks by the enemies of our peace

23 February 2023

Northern Ireland’s political leaders have joined together to condemn the shooting of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance leader Naomi Long, UUP leader Doug Beattie and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said they stand united in outright condemnation of the attack.

Mr Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after the shooting at a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone, on Wednesday evening.

Dissident republican group the New IRA is the primary focus for detectives investigating the shooting.

The political leaders in Northern Ireland said in a joint statement: “We speak for the overwhelming majority of people right across our community who are outraged and sickened by this reprehensible and callous attempted murder.

“The community of Omagh has endured profound suffering, loss and pain in the past which has left a deep trauma, and so this act of violence has left people there rightly angered.

“There is absolutely no tolerance for such attacks by the enemies of our peace.

“Those responsible must be brought to justice.

“This will require the full co-operation of the public whom we call upon to assist police in this attempted murder investigation.

“Together we stand with John’s family and his colleagues in the police service at this time.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the “disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh”.

Irish premier Leo Varadkar condemned the “grotesque act of attempted murder”.

There can be no hiding place for this. There can be no sympathy for this

President of Ireland Michael D Higgins said: “The shooting of a police officer in front of his son is something that will be condemned by all those who believe in democracy and the peace that we all need to sustain.

“It is to be welcomed that members of all communities have expressed their revulsion at this act.”

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said the shooting was “diabolical and unacceptable”, and added there is no excuse or political rationale for it.

She told RTE: “There can be no hiding place for this. There can be no sympathy for this. There is no rhyme or reason politically speaking for a vicious act of thuggery like this.

“Now what we need is an all-Ireland effort co-operation between An Garda Siochana and the PSNI to find the motive for this act, and more importantly to apprehend the perpetrators, and anybody with any evidence or any information must not hesitate in bringing that forward immediately to the appropriate authorities.”

On Thursday morning, Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris described the attack as “cowardly and callous”.

He said the community of Omagh is “completely shocked by this because society has moved on in Northern Ireland”, adding: “There is no place for violence like this.”

Asked if he was concerned about the safety of PSNI officers, Mr Heaton-Harris said: “I’m always concerned about safety of PSNI officers but they’re completely professional, and in all my experiences with them they know exactly what they’re doing and actually are policing the communities of Northern Ireland really effectively and very, very well.

“But this is a really significant event. It’s a very serious event, and it’s difficult to underline how cowardly these people are.”

He said he will be in Northern Ireland “very shortly”.

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