Queen's Policy Engagement

Omagh police shooting: why attack comes at a difficult time in Northern Ireland

Dr Peter McLoughlin looks at the recent shooting in Omagh of Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell.

Omagh police shooting: why attack comes at a difficult time in Northern Ireland

The shooting of a police officer in Omagh on Thursday evening is another horrific reminder that Northern Ireland remains a deeply and dangerously divided society. Though it has not been confirmed that the assailants were paramilitaries, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has stated that it is investigating links to dissident republicanism.

Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell was shot multiple times, and is currently in a stable but critical condition, with what are described as “life-changing injuries”. A senior police officer, Caldwell has played a leading role in investigations of non-political criminality, but also high profile cases involving dissidents, including the killing of fellow PSNI officer Ronan Kerr in 2011, and that of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019 – the latter also resulting from an attempted attack on the police.

For those reasons, the PSNI obviously sees dissidents as again being the likely perpetrators of this latest attack.

The timing of the assault also suggests political motivation. Like the killing of McKee, the attack comes at time of particular political uncertainty and instability in the region.

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Article originally appeared on The Conversation. 

Dr Peter McLoughlin
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Dr Peter McLoughlin is a senior lecturer in the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen's University Belfast. His research interests include Irish history and politics, with particular emphasis on British-Irish relations and the Northern Ireland problem.

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