What then can we say about the funerals of the four, except that they are a depressing reminder that for unionists nothing has changed.
Unionists have spent years claiming to be supporters of 'law and order' and standing up for 'their' police. And yet, when four officers are killed in tragic circumstances, they show by their presence – and absence – from the funerals who they really care about.
The Belfast Telegraph reported on the four funerals as follows:
James Magee (Church of Ireland (Protestant))
"Among those who gathered for the emotional service in Dromore Cathedral was PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde as well as the DUP’s Jimmy Spratt and UUP MLA Jeffrey Donaldson."
Kevin Gorman (Catholic)
Funeral at Christ the King Church outside Drumaness on 26/11/2008;
"Deputy Chief Constable Paul Leighton, Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay – who both wore black armbands — Policing Board Chairman Professor Sir Desmond Rea and Ombudsman Al Hutchinson were also present. Senior Sinn Fein members Caitriona Ruane and Alex Maskey also attended."
Kenny Irvine (Presbyterian (Protestant))
Funeral at Kilkeel Presbyterian Church (26/11/2008).
"PSNI Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde and Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie attended in uniform. Local political figures also turned out to pay their respects including Jeffery Donaldson, Jim Wells and Jimmy Spatt. "
Declan Greene (Catholic)
Funeral to take place at St Colman’s Church in Massforth outside Kilkeel (27/11/2008).
"Senior police figures including Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde, the PSNI’s rural region Assistant Chief Constable Judith Gillespie and members of the Police Federation are expected to join the mourners."
There lies exposed the blatant sectarianism of the unionist parties. They were represented at the two Protestant funerals, but conspicuously absent from the two Catholic funerals. Non-sectarian Protestants, including Hugh Orde, managed to attend both of the Catholic funerals. Sinn Féin attended three of the funerals, including that of James Magee. The Newsletter reports that "Party members were, however, asked to stay away from the funeral of Protestant Kenneth Irvine, 30, in Kilkeel."
Even in death, therefore, members of 'their' police are still not worthy of respect from unionist politicians if they are Catholics. It is a disgrace and one that the unionist parties should be deeply ashamed of. How a 'non-sectarian' party like the English Tories can ally themselves to the blatantly sectarian UUP is a mystery. The UUP calls itself a party "for all of us" - but obviously 'us' means 'us Protestants'.
For unionists it seems that religion is more important than support for the police or simple human respect. Their anti-Catholicism exceeds their humanity. If they are in favour of an inclusive society they need to start by valuing and respecting equally, irrespective of religion, all of its members - policemen and others. Any party that selects which which dead public servants to commemorate on the basis of religion has no place in a modern society.