A widow whose PSNI officer husband was murdered ten years ago today says that uniting the people of Ireland is more important for a peaceful future than uniting the country politically.
Kate Carroll was speaking just ahead of the tenth anniversary of the murder of her husband, Constable Stephen Carroll. He was lured to a call-out in Craigavon by the Continuity IRA on 9 March 2009 and shot.
Aged 48, he was the first police officer to be killed in NI since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. He was originally from the Republic of Ireland and the couple lived in Banbridge and had a son and grandchildren.
His widow Kate says she it still grieving “the love of my life” ten years on.
On Thursday she went to the tenth commemoration service for Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quincey, who were shot by dissidents at Massereene Barracks in Antrim only two days before she lost her husband.
Kate went arm-in-arm with Yvonne Black, whose prisoner officer husband David was murdered by dissidents on the M1 in 2012. The pair went to show support for Patrick Azimkar’s mother, Geraldine Ferguson.
“Geraldine’s family held a special place in my heart because after Steve was murdered one of the first wreaths that I was given was from the Azimkar family. I just thought that was so amazing and thoughtful in the midst of their own grief and trauma.
“We always send texts to each other and felt we needed to keep in touch because we share the same emotions and it was easier to talk to someone that understands.”
The three are in a support circle with Nuala Kerr, mother of Ronan Kerr, the PSNI officer who was murdered by dissidents near Omagh in 2011.
But Kate holds no bitterness. “I don’t because it only hurts me. I forgive these acts not because of them [the gunmen] but really because I don’t want them occupying any space in my head.”
Brendan McConville and John Paul Wootton were jailed for Stephen’s murder in 2012.
“I felt a sense of justice that someone had been taken to task but I feel sorry for other victims who never got that.
“The most hurtful thing is that I am now grieving for the future that Steve and I would have had and which was taken away from us.
“I remember Steve coming in through the door and he used to shout an old family saying from down in Mayo; ‘woman of the house, where’s me tay?’”
Steve had just graduated with a degree in Sports Science and was planning to run a business from home in providing rehabilitation for stroke and heart attack survivors.
“The day of the Massereene murders was the day we were down looking at office furniture and we were as happy as anything, but then it turned sour when we heard the news about the murders that night.
“The talk then just turned to what if anything happened to Steve, so that night he began to plan his own funeral. But little did I know that two days later we would be organising his funeral as well.
“I just lost the love of my life to the divisions of this country. Rather than a united Ireland I would think more of a united people of Ireland.
“People are frightened about going back to the past again, that is what would upset me most.
“I don’t want that for my grandchildren and I am sure hundreds and thousands of people out there that don’t want that either.”