‘We won’t be taken back to the past’

‘WE will not be dragged back to the past’ was the message during a Craigavon Borough Council meeting from Sinn Fein during condemnations of the murder of David Black.

Sinn Fein Cllr Johnny McGibbon challenged dissident republicans to put themselves before the electorate.

“This is a human tragedy and our thoughts are with the Black family. The people who carried out this attack are totally wrong. The message we must say is that we have not been taken back to the past and we will not be taken back there.”

He said anyone taking the community back there ‘will fail’.

Cllr McGibbon said those who committed the murders should explain their actions. “If you consider yourselves republicans put yourselves in front of the people. The people who did this action failed to do that.

“They are on the road to nowhere. They have no support in the nationalist, republican community. We are not going back. These people will not succeed.”

Tributes were led by the Mayor Carla Lockhart who described it as an ‘horrific murder carried out by dissident republicans’.

She said it was a ‘callous attack’ which had shocked the entire borough.

Cllr Lockhart, who represented the borough at Mr Black’s funeral, said the murder ‘had taken us back to the dark days of the past’.

DUP Cllr Mark Baxter extended his and his party’s ‘deepest and heartfelt sympathies to the family’.

Describing it as a ‘brutal and callous murder’ Cllr Baxter said: “It is a stark reminder of those dark days of the past. We don’t want to return to those days and the vast majority of people are abhorred by what has happened.

“These so called dissidents have very little support even in their own communities and I’m led to believe they are small in number, but as we have seen in recent days it only takes a few to cause so much hurt and pain yet achieving nothing.

“There are those who know who carried out this cold blooded murder, there are those who know that something they seen or heard last week is suspicious, I would urge those or anyone with any sort of information no matter how slight to contact the police, lets show these people the revulsion that the community holds for this murder.”

SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson said it had been a ‘traumatic’ few weeks in the borough.

“In that time we have had a murder, a potentially fatal stabbing and most recently a fatal road accident,” he said.

He offered his and his party’s sympathies to the family of the murdered prison officer.

“This murder is unjustifiable by any stretch of the perverted logic that these people use to justify their actions.

“I also share the anger of the vast majority of the nationalist community of North Lurgan that once again their good name has been tarnished by the fact that this operation if not launched from the area was certainly terminated there,” said Cllr Nelson.

Ulster Unionist Cllr Ronnie Harkness said Mr Black was like himself, a native of Cookstown. He said the prison officer was a highly respected man who looked after his family including his elderly parents.

He said, as well as being a prison officer Mr Black was also heavily involved in his local community and Church as well as being Vice-President of the local Boys’ Brigade.

“Various adjectives have been used to describe the cowards who carried out this crime. To me they are unwanted dissident terrorists. To label them something different shows they are letting them get under our skin.

Ulster Unionist Cllr Meta Crozier, after offering her deepest sympathies to the family, said: “I know the devastation that was felt in Lurgan when the news spread. It is time the people who are behind this are put behind bars.

“The people of Lurgan are devastated at this murder. If there was anything we could have done to stop it, we would have,” she said.

Upper Bann DUP MLA, Sydney Anderson, also condemned the murder and called on the whole community to help the police to catch the killers.

Mr Anderson, a former member of the Assembly Justice Committee, said: “As MLA for Upper Bann, I am utterly appalled to learn of the brutal and callous murder of prison officer, David Black, in the heart of my constituency. Mr Black was a brave public servant with a long and distinguished career in the Prison Service, and he was murdered by cowardly terrorist thugs while making his way to work.

“I extend my deepest sympathies to his sorrowing family circle in their loss. They have already shown great dignity, and I hope that, in their pain, they can take some comfort from knowing that people right across the community are thinking of them.

“Mr Black served as a prison officer during some of the darkest days of our province’s history, and his murder is a fresh reminder of the supreme sacrifice that he and his colleagues have made. His murder must be condemned, without reservation, by all political parties.”