Category: Archive

After lawyer’s murder, Ireland reels

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Anne Cadwallader in Belfast and Andrew Bushe in Dublin

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern expressed "shock and dismay" and condemned the car bomb murder of lawyer Rosemary Nelson as an "outrage" and an attack on the peace process.

Ahern, in the U.S. for St. Patrick’s Day, said the vast majority of people in Ireland had supported the peace process and hoped such atrocities were now part of history.

Describing the killing as an attack on democracy, Ahern said that despite threats to her life, Nelson had courageously continued to serve her clients, the cause of justice and the rule of law.

"It is a terrible deed," Ahern said. "Unfortunately, it is an issue we thought we had moved away from, these kind of atrocities."

Sinn Fein’s leader, Gerry Adams, also in the U.S., said Nelson was a beacon for truth and justice.

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"There is a heavy onus on the two governments and all political leaders to redouble our efforts to break the current impasse and move the peace process forward," he said.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met Nelson last month as part of a delegation from the Garvaghy Road, said the killing was a "disgusting, despicable barbarity."

Blair said that no effort would be spared in hunting down and bringing to justice those responsible "for this senseless and despicable act of murder whose sole aim is to remove any chance of reconciliation. "

They will not be allowed to succeed," Blair said.

David Trimble, the UUP leader, who is also in the U.S., said it was "an appalling act." Seamus Mallon, the SDLP deputy leader, said he had known Nelson well and those responsible were guilty of appalling brutality and had attacked all the people of Northern Ireland.

John Taylor, deputy leader of the UUP, said that "while unionists would have disagreed with Rosemary Nelson’s views and actions, murder can never be condoned."

"The UUP wishes the RUC well in their investigations," he said.

Martin McGuinness of Sinn Féin said the murder would have an impact on the peace process. "As we approach Good Friday, this has deepened the crisis and we all have to be very, very concerned".

Fine Gael leader John Bruton said it was a calculated attempt to disrupt the peace process.

"It is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legal system which she served so well and it is designed to inflame sectarian passions in Northern Ireland at a time when we need everyone to keep calm and to work for compromise," he said.

Labor leader Ruairi Quinn described the killing as a "deplorable" attack carried out by fascists and designed to strike fear into the wider nationalist community.

Tanaiste Mary Harney said politicians must work even harder to make sure agreement was reached to make it possible to allow the executive to be put in place.

"This was a despicable, callous, cold-blooded murder carried out by evil people and we have got to make sure they don’t succeed," she said. "They were clearly trying to derail the Good Friday agreement."

Foreign Minister David Andrews described the killing as a "dastardly and cowardly attack" designed to sabotage the peace process at a crucial time.

Andrews spoke to British Northern Ireland Political Development Minister Paul Murphy and "emphasized the absolute importance" of bringing those responsible to justice as speedily as possible.

"Rosemary Nelson’s murderers clearly have no interest in the peaceful future which the people of Ireland, North and South, voted for so overwhelmingly in the referendums on the Good Friday Agreement," Andrews said. "They have rejected the democratic will of the people and must be isolated.

"Her murder is a very deliberate attempt to intimidate those whose task is to provide legal representation to those who need it. Legal representation is a basic right to which all people are entitled."

Andrews said he thought the murder would make people more resolute about implementing the peace process.

Murphy himself described the killing as a "sinister and cowardly act."

Dolores Kelly, the SDLP mayor of Craigavon, who knew the dead woman since their schooldays, said it was a "horrific murder" and that it has left the community numbed.

"She was a brave young woman and a person who put herself forward to speak up for justice and for issues she thought to be right."

Kelly said the dead woman had been threatened in recent times. "Rosemary did not give in to threats."

She said that Nelson had done a lot of quiet work in the background for voluntary groups and charities and she could easily have taken an easy option with her work and just dealt with ordinary bread-and-butter cases.

In Geneva, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Irish President Mary Robinson said she was "shocked and saddened" by the killing.

She called on the people of Northern Ireland to push ahead with peace, saying this was "the greatest tribute they could pay to her memory."

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