Gunmen brought murder back to the North yesterday morning when they shot and killed a prison officer on his way to work.

The killing has quite rightly been met with a wave of revulsion and condemnation from right across the political spectrum.

It was senseless, wrong and should never have happened.

If, as appears likely, the attack was carried out by dissident republicans, it serves to further highlight just how far out of touch with reality these micro groups are.

On the one hand they expect claims about brutality in the prison regime to be taken seriously, as indeed they should be. But then they make a mockery of their own complaints when some of their number set aside any notion of decency and humanity through such a brutal murder.

It’s a callous breach the most fundamental human right, the right to life. The sympathies of the vast majority of people will be with David Black’s bereaved family and friends.

The barbaric events of yesterday morning stand as yet another example of the pointlessness of the armed campaign of these tiny groups. The killing will not advance their aims in any way. The progress made in recent years will not be derailed and the peace process will continue. Violence simply for the sake of violence, which is all these groups offer, achieves nothing. Killing someone driving to work is not a political act; it serves no purpose.

Gun-toting thugs with no political direction will never succeed in their ambition of uniting Ireland. What they have done, however, is unite all sensible people - including those with opposing political outlooks - against their futile actions.