David Ford’s speech in full:
It is right that our first business of this new year should be to send our best wishes for a full recovery to Constable Peadar Heffron, and let his parents, his wife and his friends and colleagues know that they are in our thoughts and prayers.
The facts of the case are well known. At about 6.30 last Friday morning, Constable Heffron was driving along the Milltown Road, between Randalstown and Antrim, on his way to work at Woodbourne Station in West Belfast. His wife was driving behind him. A bomb exploded under his car, causing him serious injuries and he remains critically ill in the Royal Victoria Hospital as we meet.
Nine months ago, almost to the day, dissident Republicans murdered Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar at Massereene Barracks, barely a mile from the scene of Friday’s atrocity. On that occasion, the people of Antrim stood together in opposition to the terrorists who had visited such horror on them. I know that I can speak with confidence that the vast majority of the people of Antrim and district will say the same thing today and continue to stand together in the face of this atrocity.
The attempt to murder a police officer on his way to carry out his duty serving the people of Northern Ireland will be condemned throughout our community, indeed in every part of these islands. I do not expect that my words will make any difference to those who carried out this deed, but I trust that the united voice of community, church and political leaders will carry some weight with anyone who might be tempted down that path. The dissidents have nothing to offer, nothing but utterly spurious claims, nothing but death and destruction.
To Peadar’s wife and parents, to his friends and family circle, I want to say that we sympathise with you at this time.
To his colleagues in the Police Service, in Antrim and West Belfast particularly, I know that the people of Northern Ireland will want to thank you for your professionalism and your courage. I spoke earlier to the Chief Constable, and I know that he and his officers will continue to move forward on community policing, as a body which is now widely representative of the community it serves.
To the people of Antrim, it is vital that anyone who has any information that could in any way help catch those who carried out this atrocity must pass it on to the police. It’s not up to you to decide whether something is important, let the police do that.
While I do not wish to detract from my main purpose today, I must also address my fellow MLAs. The key way in which as an Assembly we can act against the dissidents is by showing that politics works, showing that we can deliver for our people, by demonstrating good governance. Petty squabbles and childish stand-offs do nothing to advance the needs of this community. Whatever the current problems, we must overcome them and advance the political process and the peace process.
Peadar Heffron is exactly the sort of police office this society needs. He joined the Police Service of Northern Ireland in its early days, well before it was easy for someone from his background. He showed great courage in doing so and has worked hard on the community relations aspect of his job, not least through bringing the PSNI and GAA closer together.
The way that Peadar’s colleagues from Woodbourne have supported the Heffron family over the last four days shows the respect in which he is held. We offer him our support and our prayers.