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Statement by Vernon Coaker MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, on the murder of David Black

House of Commons – 2nd November 2012 

Mr Deputy Speaker, I want to thank the Secretary of State for advance sight of her statement. It is a sad duty that we both have, to be in the House this morning. 

The murder of David Black was a sickening and deplorable crime.  

My thoughts and those of my honourable and right honourable friends on this side of the House, and indeed all members, are with his family - his wife Yvonne and his children Kyle and Kyra, those who loved and knew him as a husband, father and friend.  

I send condolences as well to all those working in the Northern Ireland Prison Service.  

They have lost a valued and highly regarded colleague, the thirtieth prison officer to be murdered since 1974. They do a remarkable job in very difficult circumstances. An attack on any one of them is an attack on the criminal justice system, the law and the community.  

Can the Secretary of State tell us today, in light of this dreadful incident, if there will be any reassessment of prison officers’ security, both inside and outside their places of work? 

I welcome the arrests made by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which bears out the Chief Constable’s statement yesterday that he would leave no stone unturned in finding the killers of David Black. Whilst I know that there are limitations to what the Secretary of State can say, is there any further information she can give the House this morning? 

The murder of a man on his way to work is particularly appalling. And let the message from all sides of this House today be very clear.  

This was not a political act. It was not done on anyone’s behalf or to achieve any aim. It will not further any cause. It was the cold-blooded, evil murder of an ordinary, decent man going about his ordinary, decent business.  

People right across Northern Ireland will be rightly outraged at the actions of these terrorists, who seek only to hurt and destroy peace and progress, and the democratic process.  

Will the Secretary of State join with me in saying that the security of people in Northern Ireland is the priority of all of us in positions of leadership? And will she assure the House of her and the government’s commitment to that. 

There must be no complacency about the threat from the small number of people engaged in violence.  

And there must be total support from the government - both financial and political - to help the security forces keep people safe in Northern Ireland.  

Does she agree that there is an onus on the government to ensure that those protecting the public, particularly the Police Service of Northern Ireland, have all of the resources needed to tackle terrorism and the threat to national security? And does she believe that the current level of support is sufficient? 

Northern Ireland is a changed place, a great place. We have made great strides over the last number of years. But we can’t take what we have for granted. This murder shows that we still need to work hard for peace and progress.  

The First and deputy First Ministers, the Chief Constable and the Justice Minister, and the Tánaiste have spoken with one voice on behalf of the whole community and the whole island – a voice that speaks to reject the attempt to subvert the will of the people of Ireland, north and south.  

Will the Secretary of State join with me when in saying that all of us stand together here in Westminster, at Stormont, right across the United Kingdom and with our partners in the Irish government, committed to building a better Northern Ireland? 

The murder of David Black was an appalling act that has deprived a man of his life and a family of their loved one.  

Those who so callously planned and carried out an ambush on a man going to work want to divide the community and destroy the peace that has been built, trying to take us back to the dark days of the past.  

But people across Northern Ireland – people just like David Black - will make sure they don’t succeed.  

Mr Deputy Speaker, let me finish by sending my condolences to David Black’s family and friends, my solidarity to his colleagues, and my commitment to the people of Northern Ireland that all of us here in this place will keep on working towards the peaceful and prosperous future they deserve, and are striving to build.

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