Rally following police officer shooting sends message that there will be no return to violence

Rally following police officer shooting sends message that there will be no return to violence

A RALLY in Omagh held in the wake of the shooting of an off-duty PSNI officer has sent out a message that there will be no return to the violence of the past.

Meanwhile, a vigil and walk of solidarity were held by Beragh Swifts Football Club, where Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell is a volunteer youth coach.

Hundreds of people attended Saturday's 'No Going Back' event outside Omagh Courthouse, which was organised by the Omagh Trades Union Council.

The slogan was displayed on posters held by those in attendance, following the attempted murder of DCI Caldwell at a youth sports complex on Wednesday.

Children from Beragh Swifts Football Club lead a walk of solidarity in support of DCI Caldwell, who is a youth coach at the club (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

Event organiser Anton McCabe, Secretary of the Omagh Trades Union Council, warned Wednesday's attack risked sending Northern Ireland down a dangerous path.

"A clear message has gone out today: 'No going back'," he said.

"Those who shot John Caldwell on Wednesday were in serious danger of lighting a fire that could burn us all.

"And let us be clear, the people of Omagh today have said: 'No! No going back!'"

He added: "We are standing not just in horror at what was done to John Caldwell but standing here saying let us build a better society of justice, of peace. of equality."

'Nothing to offer us'

Speaking on behalf of the Unite union, Neil Moore it was important to stand against those seeking a return to violence after decades of relative peace.

"Public spaces such as leisure and sports centres are meant to be safe spaces for young people and others, not the scene of a shooting, not 25 years after the Good Friday Agreement," said Mr Moore.

"It's clear to me and it's clear to many young people that unfortunately, paramilitarism and sectarianism has not gown away

"Polarisation has been allowed to grow and politicians continue to sow division.

The rally was organised by the Omagh Trades Union Council (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

"Those behind the events of Wednesday night also offer nothing but a return to the futile conflict of the past.

"All of us here know that, all of us here are to send them that message and anybody that is looking towards those groups should be sent that message today

"Their actions have nothing to offer us — their only aim is to whip up sectarian tensions in our society.

"These groups are opposed by people like you, the majority in society, the working class, Catholic, Protestant and others and we must continue, unfortunately, to mobilise and remind paramilitaries of our disdain and disgust, but most importantly that there will be no going back, no return, to sectarian violence."

'Psychological effects'

Meanwhile, Mark McTaggart, Northern Secretary of the Irish National Teachers' Organisation, hit out at the effect the attack — and a wider return to violence — would have on children.

"For those young people to witness what they witnessed and the psychological effect that is bound to have on those young people, all that will down is destroy their chances of moving forward," he said.

"The amount of time that teachers, care workers and classroom assistants are now going to have to put in to dealing with the outcome and dealing with what happened on Wednesday night will only take away from their life chances."

Hundreds attended the gathering outside Omagh Courthouse (Image: Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)

He added: "What I don't want and what none of us here want is to go back to a time that I grew up in, where there was violence in the streets, where there were shootings on a regular basis, that you weren't sure when you went out who would come home.

"We can't go back to that.”

Six people have so far been arrested in connection with the attempted murder of DCI Caldwell, the most recent being a 71-year-old man detained on Saturday evening.

The five other arrested men, aged 22, 38, 43, 45 and 47, remain in police custody at this time.