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Address by Robin Eames to the National Police Memorial Day Service, Waterfront Hall, Belfast, (1 October 2006)

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Text: Robin Eames ... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Address by the Most Revd Dr Robin Eames, then the Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh, to the National Police Memorial Day Service, Waterfront Hall, Belfast, (1 October 2006)


"I have been asked by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales to convey the following message to you this afternoon:

"It is a matter of great pride for me that I was invited to become Patron of the National Police Memorial Day and I only wish that I could be with you today to salute the remarkable heroism of police officers everywhere and, in particular, to remember those who have given their lives in the line of duty. This day of commemoration is a way for the nation to recognize the best of all human qualities - selfless and devoted courage - and the example and valour of those officers who died on duty should act as an inspiration to us all.

This service is a poignant and timely reminder of the true meaning of public service and the high price which is too often paid by officers and their families for that service.

Today is one of mixed emotions - of agonizing sadness, but of enormous pride in the British Police Service and the officers who make it as special and admired as it is."

"We meet to remember before Almighty God the sacrifice of those who have lost their lives while serving in the police services of these islands. Statistics tell their own story in these days. But as we know all too well in this part of the United Kingdom figures are but one side of tragedy. Here where the Police Service has paid such a cost down the years we know from sad experiences the burdens still carried today by many police families. Behind statistics lie human-beings with hopes, fears and loved ones. Behind official figures lie voices, faces, ambitions and the ability to love and be loved. Behind the stark facts are wives and husbands, parents and little children. When the dust settles on any tragedy lie months and years of coming to terms with loss, years of sorrow and frustration, years of unfulfilled hopes. Every statistic contains within it so much more.

For perhaps days following such deaths, the media was full of graphic details. Photographs and images filled pages and screens. There was public revulsion and condemnation. But then something else would capture the headlines - and the world moves on. Yet for those closest to the tragedies life could never be the same again. All too often the passing of time dulls the social conscience of a society. In particular that passing of time dulls the sense of gratitude, appreciation and understanding of the human cost paid by those whose duties and service place them between two societies - on the one hand the normal society and every-day life and the other society of violence, terrorism and those for whom human life is a cheap commodity. For the truth is simply this : it is only at times of tragic death or on occasions such as today that we pause to consider the price policemen and women too often pay. Class or creed, colour or background are irrelevant : the particular police service is irrelevant. Death is death : murder is murder. Day and night on behalf of the community police lives are put at risk in these days when levels of violent criminality run at such a high level. In a few moments we will read the list of those lives were taken in violent circumstances in one single year. We will pause to remember - yet even in this moving service - we will move on.

The word ‘Remembrance’ is itself the combination of many emotions. In my own work in this Province across the years I have often reflected that it is how we deal with memory that makes us what we are - and in fact determines much of what we can become. Memories can be negative, full of bitterness and frustration. But they can be something else. They can be the spring-board for hope, for gratitude, for vision - and for moving on. No one has the right to dictate to anyone how they should treat something as precious as the memory of a loved one. But surely society cannot be allowed to move on unaffected by the tragedies we recall at this moment. There were lives lost in the service of and protection of ordinary, decent life. There must never be a ‘taking for granted’. There must never be a failure to thank God for such public service. There must never be an acceptable level of criminality. In these days of heightened community tensions, the fear and reality of terrorism and the new ruthlessness of criminal activity each police life taken is one too many. To repeat a well-known phrase : each death diminishes society.

So as we remember, as we pay tribute, let us all under God refuse to pass on as though these deaths had not happened. Let us remember them with thankfulness and pride. We commend all who mourn them and miss them most to the God from whom nothing is hidden and who can heal all wounds. But equally let us resolve that what our police services are asked to do - the protection of decency, the upholding of the law and the detection of crime - let us resolve that the society which should be grateful will never pass on immune to such sacrifices and the cost that is too often being paid in our name.

We will remember them..."


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