Northern Irish man charged with murder of prison officer

by Reuters
Wednesday, 5 February 2014 14:20 GMT

By Ian Graham

CRAIGAVON, Northern Ireland, Feb 5 (Reuters) - A court in Northern Ireland charged a man on Wednesday with the 2012 murder of a prison officer, the first such killing since before a 1998 peace deal that largely ended decades of violence in the British province.

Sean McVeigh, 33, was charged with the murder of David Black and remanded to jail when he appeared at the magistrates court in Craigavon, near the capital Belfast.

Black, 52, had worked in the prison service throughout the sectarian conflict but became the first prison officer to be killed in Northern Ireland in almost 20 years - and the 31st overall - when he was attacked in late 2012.

He was shot dead on the M1 motorway between Lurgan and Craigavon on November 1, 2012.

Dissident republicans, opposed to the Northern Ireland peace process, claimed responsibility.

The 1998 peace and power-sharing deal put an end to three decades of sustained sectarian violence in the province between pro-British Protestants and Catholics who generally favour unification with Ireland.

But there has been an increase in street violence and attacks by militant groups in the last year and talks between communities to ease tensions have broken down.

McVeigh was also charged with possessing an AK47 assault rifle and ammunition. He did not speak but nodded to indicate he understood the charges.

Black was a senior officer in the top security Maghaberry Prison where numerous dissident republicans are held. He died while the dissidents were staging a lengthy protest over conditions in the jail.

(Editing by Sam Cage, John Stonestreet)

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