Murdered NI prison officers remembered at memorial service

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, laying a wreath in memory of the 32 members of the Prison Service who lost their lives in the course of duty. Picture: Michael Cooper
Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, Ronnie Armour, laying a wreath in memory of the 32 members of the Prison Service who lost their lives in the course of duty. Picture: Michael Cooper

The Northern Ireland Prison Service has held its annual memorial service to remember officers who lost their lives in the course of duty.

Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), Ronnie Armour, laid a wreath in the Memorial Garden at Hydebank Wood in memory of the 32 members of the service who lost their lives, before taking the opportunity to meet their families.

The Northern Ireland Prison Service Pipe Band Drum Major at the memorial stone at Hydebank Wood. Picture: Michael Cooper

The Northern Ireland Prison Service Pipe Band Drum Major at the memorial stone at Hydebank Wood. Picture: Michael Cooper

“It is important that we continue to remember the service and sacrifice of prison staff who lost their lives serving the community,” he said.

“The annual service of remembrance serves as a reminder of the professionalism, commitment and dedication of governors, officers and support staff of the Northern Ireland Prison Service, past and present, in upholding and maintaining our justice system.”

Prison officer Ernie Smyth – the longest-serving NIPS uniformed member of staff – laid a wreath at the memorial stone, which carries the names of the men and women of the Northern Ireland Prison Service who were murdered by terrorists.

The first, Officer R. Walker, died in 1942; the most recent, Senior Officer Adrian Ismay, was killed in March 2016.

The service, conducted by Prison Service chaplains, is organised annually by the Central Benevolent Fund (CBF).

Wreaths were also laid by Peter May, Permanent Secretary Department of Justice, representatives of the bereaved widows, The Central Benevolent Fund, The Prison Officers’ Association, The Prison Governors’ Association, NI Public Service Alliance, The Prison Service Trust, The NIPS Sports Association, The Retired Officers’ Fellowship, the local branch of the Royal British Legion and by the Irish Prison Service.

The Memorial Garden at Hydebank Wood was officially opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal earlier this year.

Mr Armour added: “This new garden provides a space where we, as a Prison Service family, can come to remember relatives, friends and colleagues so cruelly taken from us and to reflect on the contribution they made as well as the service they gave. It is a place of tranquility and a permanent acknowledgement of the heavy price paid by the families of our murdered colleagues.”