Belfast Telegraph

Paramilitaries, not police, run parts of Belfast, claims McCord

By Claire O'Boyle

Loyalist gangs are running huge parts of north and west Belfast as communities turn away from the police, the father of a man murdered by the UVF has said.

Raymond McCord, whose son Raymond Jnr was killed in 1997, claimed people had lost confidence in the PSNI and called on Chief Constable George Hamilton to resign.

"It's far worse now than five years ago, or even a year," he said. "The paramilitaries run north Belfast, they run the Shankill Road, they run the Shore Road, they run Newtownabbey.

"Like it or not, the paramilitaries are the police force in north and west Belfast. It's exactly the same here as it is in the republican areas, where the dissidents run the show. People feel like they don't have a better option.

"I had high hopes for George Hamilton, because he seemed hands-on, like he knew what he was doing.

"But when we see what's going on now, with police not responding to serious situations for 12 hours, and we're expected to believe that's normal, then something serious is going wrong."

Mr McCord's comments come a day after this newspaper reported how severe delays in response times, inadequate numbers of personnel and growing security fears were leading to major policing issues in north and west Belfast, with more people turning to paramilitaries.

A PSNI insider claimed that officers were nervous about their own safety and revealed the worrying extent of delays in response times.

Mr McCord's concerns go back as far as two years ago when, he claims, a senior police officer admitted the force had no control over the Shankill Road.

"Me and some people from the Shankill had a meeting with police officers from north and west Belfast," he explained. "During the meeting, a senior officer got up and took me into the corner and said, 'We don't police the Shankill, Raymond, the UVF do.'"

Victims' campaigner Mr McCord told of one incident that prompted the meeting, when a terrified woman was left without help as paramilitary thugs attacked her home.

"It was about 11.30pm one night when this woman rang me from the Shankill screaming, 'Help me, help me'," he said.

"She said her house was being attacked, her windows were being put through. She'd rung the police twice on Tennent Street, which is very close, but no one came and she was terrified."

Luckily, Mr McCord called and spoke to an officer. "He had to walk because there were no patrols in the area and no one was arrested," he said.

"This was a couple of years ago when problems were building. Now they are getting worse."

Mr McCord (63), told how he knew of many people from the loyalist community in north and west Belfast who go to the paramilitaries for help in tackling anti-social behaviour and crime. "You ask people in Rathcoole and they have no confidence in the police," he said.

"They go to the paramilitaries because it's the only way things will get sorted out, whether it's theft, anti-social or drunk and disorderly behaviour."

The PSNI said: "There is only one police service in Northern Ireland and that is the PSNI."

The force added it could not comment on Mr McCord's claim that an officer told him the UVF police the Shankill without specific details about the incident.

"If Mr McCord can provide us with these details, we will investigate the matter further," a statement said.

"The PSNI delivers a policing service to all communities across Northern Ireland, including the Shankill area."

The PSNI added that it could not comment on individual threats.

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