Shropshire Star

Biden praises solidarity of NI politicians following shooting of detective

DCI John Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition following the gun attack blamed on dissident republicans.

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Political leaders with police chief

President Joe Biden has praised Northern Ireland’s political leaders standing together following the attempted murder of a police detective.

Police Service of Northern Ireland Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition after being shot multiple times at a leisure centre in Omagh, Co Tyrone, last month.

The New IRA, an armed dissident republican group opposed to the peace process, has been blamed for the attack on the high-profile officer.

Following the murder bid, senior figures from the main Stormont parties went together to meet PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne to receive an update on the incident.

Afterwards, they stood side by side along with Mr Byrne to condemn the attack and express solidarity with the police.

The show of togetherness came despite political upheaval at Stormont that has seen powersharing put in cold storage due to an impasse over post-Brexit trade.

Mr Biden referenced the incident in a speech at a St Patrick’s Day lunch hosted by Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Friday.

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US President Joe Biden speaking at the annual Friends of Ireland Luncheon hosted by Speaker Kevin McCarthy on Capitol Hill (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Byrne was a guest at the lunch in Washington DC, as were the leaders of the five main Stormont parties.

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald sat at the same table as DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson.

“Northern Ireland leaders that are here today, let me say how important it was to see you standing shoulder to shoulder with Chief Constable Byrne confirming your commitment to the future following the attempted murder of Detective Chief Inspector Caldwell,” said Mr Biden.

“We all have to continue to work to protect peace and stability.”

After the luncheon, Mr Byrne described as “quite amazing” the support offered by President Biden.

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PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne at the Ireland Funds 31st National Gala on Wednesday (Niall Carson/PA)

Mr Byrne, who was given a standing ovation at a gala Irish American dinner on Wednesday evening, thanked the president for the “empathy and compassion” he had displayed to Mr Caldwell and his family.

“I think it’s really important that the hard work that the men and women of the police service are doing around the clock is acknowledged in this way, I just think it’s quite amazing,” he told the PA news agency.

“We really, really appreciate the support from someone who’s so significant in global politics.”

He added: “I think one of the themes of the few days here in various settings is politicians and other key people from right across the spectrum have been single in their sympathy for John himself, but also the effect on his family.

“So when we get back we’ll be able to pass on some of those messages (to his family), which I think, again, shows how this awful attack has crossed certainly to this part of the globe.

“I think people are united in condemning it and seeing support for policing certainly continue to make progress in the next 25 years, after 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement and continuing to keep people safe.”

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