With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a statement about the murder of David Black.
I am sure that the whole House will join me in condemning this cowardly and evil crime which took place in Northern Ireland yesterday.
And I am sure they will also wish to join me in sending our deepest condolences to Mr Black’s family with regard to the devastating loss which they have suffered.
In brief … the facts are as follows:
At around 7.40am yesterday, a car was found on the Belfast bound carriageway of the M1 between Portadown and Lurgan.
There were a number of bullet holes in the car and the driver was dead.
He was later identified as Mr David Black … a 52 year old officer with the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
Mr Black was travelling to work at HMP Maghaberry …. Northern Ireland ‘s top security prison.
He leaves a widow … Yvonne … and a son and daughter, Kyle and Kyra.
Our profound sympathies must go to all of his family and friends at this very difficult time.
Mr Black had served as a prison officer for over 30 years. Like all his colleagues in the prison service … his dedication to duty and to public service played a vital part in efforts to keep people in Northern Ireland safe from harm.
As the First and deputy First Ministers put it in their joint statement yesterday, an attack on the prison service “is an attack on all of us.”
Condemnation of this despicable murder has come from across the community in Northern Ireland … as it has from the rest of the UK … from the Republic of Ireland … and from the United States .
The Police Service of Northern Ireland have embarked on a meticulous investigation of the crime.
The House will appreciate that this inquiry is at an early stage so the information I can give today is limited.
I would, though, repeat the appeal that was made yesterday that anyone
who has any information on this tragedy to come forward and contact the police.
From my discussions with the Chief Constable … I know that he and his officers will not rest until the perpetrators have been brought to justice and put behind bars where they belong.
This attack has demonstrated the gravity of the threat that dissident terrorist groups still pose.
That is reflected in the threat level in Northern Ireland which remains at Severe meaning an attack is highly likely.
The numbers involved in terrorist activities are small but these groupings have capability and they have lethal intent.
They can still ruin lives despite their lack of support.
So we remain vigilant.
I pay tribute to the PSNI and the Garda Siochana for their untiring efforts to combat terrorism.
Co-operation between the two police services has never been better.
That co-operation plays crucial part in protecting the public, pursuing the terrorists … and saving lives.
The government will do whatever we can to help the PSNI bring the perpetrators of this atrocity to justice.
We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that the terrorists will not succeed.
Our overriding objective is to keep the people of Northern Ireland safe and secure.
In the government’s 2010 national security strategy … the Prime Minister made countering Northern Ireland related terrorism a tier-one priority.
And last year we provided an exceptional additional £200 million over 4 years.
But crucial as they are …. Mr Speaker …. security measures on their own they will not bring an end to this threat.
Defeating terrorists also requires the united determination of the people of Northern Ireland .
And their response to this horrific crime has been clear, united and resolute.
These terrorists act in defiance of the will of the people of Ireland … north and south … who voted in overwhelming numbers for the current political settlement.
The First Minister and deputy First Minister yesterday rightly emphasised the utter futility of this attack.
Its perpetrators may have intended it to destabilise the political situation.
From what I saw in Belfast yesterday … I believe it will do the opposite.
It will strengthen the determination of the vast majority … in all parts of the community and on both sides of the border … that there will be no return to the dark days of the past.
And nothing will frustrate the efforts being made to build on the achievements of the peace process and deliver the shared future which we all want to see. Those who seek to pursue their objectives by violence will not succeed.
The future of Northern Ireland will only ever be determined by democracy and consent.
That is the clear message coming from Northern Ireland in the wake of this tragedy … from political leaders … from church leaders … and from the wider community.
And I am sure the whole house will join me in endorsing it.