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Archbishops deplore shooting of police officer in Omagh

23 February 2023


Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in 2020

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell in 2020

THE Anglican and Roman Catholic Archbishops of Armagh have condemned the shooting of a senior police officer in Omagh, Northern Ireland, on Wednesday evening.

The off-duty officer, DCI John Caldwell, was shot multiple times outside a sports complex. Mr Caldwell had reportedly been coaching youth football before he was shot.

BBC News reports that he was taken to Altnagelvin Hospital, in Londonderry, where he is in a critical but stable condition after undergoing surgery. Three men have been arrested in connection with the shooting and are being questioned by police. 

In a joint statement on Thursday morning, the Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, the Most Revd John McDowell, and the RC Archbishop of Armagh, the Most Revd Eamon Martin, said: “It is impossible to find appropriate words even to describe let alone condemn such an act of depraved violence against a police officer who, as a public servant, works for the protection and well-being of the whole community.

“Our thoughts and prayers at this time, along with those of our parishioners, are with the officer, and with his colleagues, family and friends.”

The Archbishops said that they were “united in our condemnation of this abhorrent attack on someone serving our community. Regardless of who they think they are, the individuals who planned and carried out this shooting represent a deep-seated criminal threat to the health and peace of our society, and it is important that we do everything in our power to prevent such things from ever happening again.”

In a separate statement, the RC Bishop of Derry, the Rt Revd Dónal McKeown, described the attack as a “wholly unjustifiable and appalling act”.

Politicians in Ireland and the UK have condemned the attack. The leaders of five Northern Irish political parties issued a joint statement, calling the perpetrators “enemies of our peace”.

Late on Wednesday evening, Rishi Sunak posted a message on Twitter saying that he was “appalled” by the shooting, and that his “thoughts are with the officer and his family”.

According to reports, Mr Caldwell’s young son was present when he was shot, along with other children and their parents, after the end of the football practice.

Assistant Chief Inspector Mark McEwan told the press that the investigation was at “an early stage. We are keeping an open mind.” But he said that the “primary focus” was on a violent Republican group called the New IRA.

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