- 23 Feb 23
"We stand with John’s family and his colleagues in the police service at this time," political leaders across all parties in Northern Ireland have said.
Last night (Wednesday, 22nd February), an off-duty PSNI officer was shot after a football coaching session in Omagh, while his son was present. The shooting has been condemned by both President Michael D. Higgins and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Politicians from across the political spectrum have gathered in Northern Ireland this morning to declare there can be "no tolerance" for such an attack.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot by two men at a sports club on Killyclogher Road. The incident occurred around 8pm last night, after Caldwell had finished coaching a youth football team. He was shot while in the company of his young son.
He was immediately taken to the hospital and was in critical but stable condition this morning, according to the PSNI.
The attempted murder is being investigated by detectives from the PSNI's Major Investigation Team. The primary focus lies on the New Irish Republican Army (New IRA).
In a joint statement, the political leaders in Northern Ireland said: "There is absolutely no tolerance for such attacks by the enemies of our peace. Those responsible must be brought to justice.“
Sinn Fein Vice President, Michelle O’Neill, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance leader Naomi Long, UUP leader Doug Beattie and SDLP leader Colum Eastwood collectively said that they “speak for the overwhelming majority of people right across our community who are outraged and sickened by this reprehensible and callous attempted murder”.
“The community of Omagh has endured profound suffering, loss, and pain in the past which has left a deep trauma, and so this act of violence has left people there rightly angered,” the leaders said.
“This will require the full co-operation of the public whom we call upon to assist police in this attempted murder investigation.“
The shooting of a police officer in front of his son is something that will be condemned by all those who believe in democracy and the peace that we all need to sustain. It is to be welcomed that members of all communities have expressed their revulsion at this act.
— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) February 23, 2023
President Michael D Higgins said, in a statement this morning: “the shooting of a police officer in front of his son is something that will be condemned by all those who believe in democracy and the peace that we all need to sustain”.
“It is to be welcomed that members of all communities have expressed their revulsion at this act.”
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said its an “utterly condemn[ed] this grotesque act of attempted murder" and encouraged “anyone with information about it to share it with the PSNI”.
He further added: "Our thoughts are with the injured officer, his family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time.“
As a representation for all rank and file officers, Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Liam Kelly called the attack “callous, cold-blooded and barbaric”.
“The officer is well known and respected in the area and plays an active role in the community. He is also well known within policing circles and is highly regarded by his colleagues,” Kelly said.
“The people who carried out this cowardly and shocking act must be quickly identified and apprehended and I would appeal to the community to assist the police in whatever way they can."
“My thoughts, and those of all police officers, are with our colleague and his family. The police family is strong and resilient, and we’ll be there for him and his family in this dreadful hour of need.”
Detectives from our Major Investigation Team have launched an attempted murder investigation following an attack on a police officer in Omagh on Wednesday evening, 22nd February. pic.twitter.com/rdGYGY4BXS
— Police Service NI (@PoliceServiceNI) February 23, 2023
Following the attack, Minister for Justice Simon Harris has been in contact with the Garda Commissioner, as gardaí support the PSNI.
Harris said that “the shooting of a PSNI officer in Omagh is utterly deplorable and completely shocking to people across this island, all the more so as it took place in the presence of young people”.
“My first thoughts this evening are with the officer, his family and police colleagues as well with as the health professionals in Altnagelvin Hospital,” Harris said.
“I’ve been briefed by the Garda Commissioner and An Garda Síochána are of course providing all possible support to their PSNI colleagues. I remain in close contact with them.”
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he was appalled by the “disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh”.
“My thoughts are with the officer and his family. There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities” he wrote on Twitter.
I am appalled by the disgraceful shooting of an off-duty police officer in Omagh tonight.
My thoughts are with the officer and his family. There is no place in our society for those who seek to harm public servants protecting communities.
— Rishi Sunak (@RishiSunak) February 22, 2023
The Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Armagh issued a joint statement expressing their "great shock and sense of disbelief" at the shooting.
“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,” they said.
“Our thoughts and prayers at this time, along with those of our parishioners, are with the officer, and with his colleagues, family and friends. As the Catholic and Protestant Archbishops of Armagh, we are united in our condemnation of this abhorrent attack on someone serving our community.”
The two shooters have not yet been found, which is why police are looking for more witnesses. Reports can be made online on the PSNI website.
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