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Hundreds attend murdered prison officer’s funeral

November 7, 2012 • Ireland, News,

David Black was gunned down as he drove to work at the high security Maghaberry prison in Co Antrim. (Pic: PA)

The family of murdered prison officer David Black has denounced his killers as cowards at his funeral.

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 (PSNI) 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.

The 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.”

Dr Patton said the killing was an attack on the whole community.

“We are together in this, totally united as churches, politicians, civic society, ordinary men and women who feel for you today in your unspeakable loss, and who in the strongest possible terms are outraged by such an evil deed,” he said.

“This attack on a prison officer was an attack on this whole community.”

He said all those who served the community enjoyed total support.

“As a people we stand together as those who have chosen a different way than the way of violence, that we have no desire whatsoever to be dragged back into the darkness, that what you have brought about in the death of David Black is totally unacceptable as far as we are concerned as well as being totally wrong in the eyes of God,” he added.

Prison chaplain the Rev Rodney Cameron and Black family minister the Rev Tom Greer painted a picture of a caring man who wanted the best for prisoners.

Mr Cameron said David had an engaging manner and his sense of humour could put the most fearful inmate at their ease.

“His authority and experience came to bear on those who still thought they were in charge,” he added.

He said messages of condolence had been sent to the family from inmates.

“However, lost was their humanity at the time of their crimes, on reflection and having known David they can (recognise) in their words and emotions and actions that a great, terrible injustice has been visited on this family and this community,” he said.

He added the very man who could possibly have shown compassion to someone guilty of the worst crimes had his life taken by such a person.

“The flashbacks and the sleepless nights will be your legacy,” he warned the killers.

He read out a poem written by one inmate about those with a “penchant to kill” and said Mr Black’s legacy should be a prison system which recycles and regenerates people rather than consigning them to a warehouse.

Those present included many prison service staff, led by the director general of the service Sue McAllister, Northern Ireland Justice Minister David Ford and his Republic of Ireland counterpart Alan Shatter, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell and Stormont ministers Danny Kennedy, Jonathan Bell and Alex Attwood.

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness did not attend after the family asked him not to.

Meanwhile, several hundred people staged a vigil organised by the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) outside Belfast City Hall in protest at the killing.

Police in Northern Ireland have arrested and released without charge two people in connection with the killing.

A man aged 29 arrested in the Republic of Ireland over the murder has also been released.

He was questioned from last Friday night after being detained in Carrigallen, Co Leitrim. A file is being prepared for the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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