Martin McGuinness will not attend Tuesday`s funeral for murdered prison officer David Black after his family declined the senior republican`s offer to go.
Cookstown will come to a standstill tomorrow as hundreds of former colleagues, friends and neighbours pay their respects to the 52-year-old married father-of-two.
Mr Black was gunned down by suspected dissident republicans at high speed on a motorway as he drove to work at the high-security Maghaberry prison on Thursday.
It is understood Mr McGuinness, Northern Ireland`s Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister and Mid Ulster MP, offered to attend the funeral but that was declined by the family.
Mr Black`s son and daughter Kyle and Kyra will pay a special tribute to their father at Molesworth Presbyterian Church in Cookstown during tomorrow`s funeral. Family minister the Rev Tom Greer, head of the Presbyterian Church Dr Roy Patton and prison chaplain Rev Rodney Cameron will also take part in the ceremony, a spokesman for the Presbyterian Church said.
Assembly members today stood for a minute’s silence in respect for the victim.
Northern Ireland`s First Minister Peter Robinson today said the utmost security must be given to prison officers to try to prevent a repeat of the death of Mr Black.
A home protection scheme is in place and the Northern Ireland Office, which administers it, has said it maintains the equipment for anybody on the scheme.
Mr Robinson said: “I am happy to co-ordinate a meeting to ensure we have the means at our disposal to ensure that the utmost security is given to prison officers as they go forward.”
Gunmen travelling in a stolen car fired on the victim`s Audi car near a junction leading to Portadown, Co Armagh, as he was on his way to Maghaberry. The car careered off the road and into a ditch.
Mr Black was the first prison officer to die at the hands of paramilitaries since 1993.
His family appealed for no more violence in a statement issued through a clergyman in Cookstown, Co Tyrone.
Mr Robinson today told members of the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont that he endorsed calls for greater security to be given to prison officers. Prison Officers’ Association chairman Finlay Spratt has expressed anger over the threat.
Director general of the Northern Ireland Prison Service Sue McAllister has said that, to her knowledge, no prison officer has been told that his or her personal protection weapon is to be withdrawn.
Stormont Justice Minister David Ford today said the killing was a tragedy for Mr Black’s family.
“It was a crime of the worst sort, the murder of an innocent man, cold-blooded, utterly ruthless, a defenceless man going to his work, a man who served this community well and with dedication and courage as a prison officer,” he said.
Sinn Fein MLA Caitriona Ruane said it was a pointless death, resolving nothing and leaving a family plunged into grief.
“It is patently obvious that the peace process will not be derailed by killings like this. It has not in the past and it won’t in the future,” she said.
“That is the reality behind these actions, people need to realise that these actions are absolutely pointless.”