Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Why are we still letting terrorists rule the roost?

A major investigation is being launched into claims of collusion between the police and the UVF. But is this enough? Isn't there a case to be made also for a much wider investigation into societal collusion with paramilitary groups and crime gangs of every ilk?

Take just a handful of recent headlines ... .

A man shot and beaten by loyalist paramilitaries in his home in Coleraine ... a man whose brother was murdered by republican paramilitaries in Derry is ordered from his home by the same dissident gang ... a young mother and her children driven from their home in Newtownards in a sectarian attack ... two children attacked and beaten in the street by car loads of grown men ...

Other than tut-tut and say something must be done and we thought the dark days were behind us, what precisely is anyone in a position of power actually doing about any of this?

Our First Minister and Deputy First Minister for starters - in whose constituencies, by coincidence, the loyalist UVF and dissident republicans, respectively, now maintain their unassailable power bases.

And where are the police in all this?

They can't be everywhere at once, we all accept.

But in the case of the Ards mother targeted so mercilessly and so consistently, you would think they could have been keeping an eye on the house with a view not just to protecting it (and neighbouring buildings) but also in hope of scooping anyone seen acting suspiciously in the vicinity.

That woman and her family have been let down by the authorities.

But similarly betrayed are the decent people of the area who totally reject the actions of the scum behind the potentially killer attacks.

And where is Chief Constable Matt Baggott when all this is going on?Offering outreach to the PUP, as it turns out - appearing as chief turn at the AGM of the party recognised as the political voice of the UVF which is still, as far as any of us are aware, a banned terrorist outfit.

Mr Baggott's message to delegates is that he just wants to be friends. What message does that send to the balaclava community? And indeed, to the officers within PSNI ranks who put their lives on the line to hold the fort against terror?

But let's not dump all the blame on Baggott. Or even on the politicians. The cosy tolerance of paramilitaries goes much deeper.

The peace process demanded wider society embrace the so-called "former combatants" and wider society has not been found lacking in clasping to its bosom even combatants of the not-so-former variety.

We have accepted a whole new language which neuters the horror of what the terror groups did, which refuses to ask searching questions of former terror chiefs and which flaccidly condemns individual acts of paramilitary violence without focusing on the big questions ...

Why are those organisations still even in existence?

Why have they been allowed to flourish and acquire such power?

Above all, why is there no major debate about what is so desperately wrong in this place that not only do the terror gangs remain in situ but nobody in authority seems to have a concerted strategy or will even, to tackle them?

We are all colluding now.

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