Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Friday, 13 March 2009

A good man to have in your team

mourners at police funeral
Kate Carroll walks behind her husband Stephen's coffin

By Paul McKillion
BBC News

"He was a good man to have in your section," said Tom Gorringe who served with Constable Stephen Carroll in the RUC.

They patrolled the streets of Newry in the late 1980s and Lurgan in the 1990s.

They were dangerous places as the police dealt with the constant threat of attack from republican paramilitaries.

Standing outside St Therese's Church in Banbridge, Mr Gorringe was with former RUC colleagues preparing to say goodbye to the man he remembered as "very modest and unassuming."

A man who, on the day he was killed, talked to his wife about the danger he had come through, and the future they would have when he retired next year.

A short distance away in the centre of the town, a lone piper played a lament as the townspeople came together in a vigil for the murdered policeman.

In summer 1998 Banbridge was devastated by dissident republicans when the Real IRA wrecked the town centre with a huge car bomb; 11 years later the town was suffering again.

Shop assistants pulled down the shutters of their premises and office workers left their desks to join representatives of local churches to pray for the Carroll family.

I just wanted to come out here and say I knew him reasonably well and he was an absolutely lovely chap
Mourner at Stephen Carroll's funeral

A bank worker said: " The response we've seen will make a difference because there are too many people united for the first time.

"This vigil was very important so that people could come out and say, 'We do not want this violence'.

"I just wanted to come out here and say I knew him reasonably well and he was an absolutely lovely chap."

Show of unity

As the mourners arrived at the church, among those paying their respects was Jackie McDonald, a leader of the loyalist UDA.

He repeatedly praised Sinn Fein for its "brave language" when condemning the killing and making clear the determination of loyalists to support the peace process and not to be drawn into retaliation.

Inside the church, Lady Sylvia Hermon, the widow of former RUC Chief Constable Sir Jack Hermon, sat next to John O'Dowd, a Sinn Fein member of the Stormont assembly.

They chatted before the service began, a further illustration that this killing had provoked an unprecedented show of unity in Northern Ireland.

As Requiem Mass began, some gathered outside to read the notes of condolences pinned to the floral tributes.

One was from the family of Sapper Patrick Azimkar, one of the soldiers shot dead outside Massereene Army base in Antrim on Saturday evening.

It read: "Our sincere condolences to the Carroll family on their sad loss. We know the pain you are suffering and all our thoughts are with you."

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