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Action needed on loyalist thugs

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 27/11/2015

Aaron McMahon
Aaron McMahon

There is an all too familiar ring about the story of brave Bangor man Aaron McMahon, who was beaten for standing up to loyalist thugs.

Mr McMahon, who is a board member of the North Down Community Network, had spoken out earlier about UDA flags being erected at a play park and asked for political help to have them removed.

Having approached an MLA, the flags were taken down.

Mr McMahon also expressed concern about loyalist intimidation at the local Eleventh Night bonfire.

Mr McMahon's home was "visited" on Wednesday night and he was battered by two masked strangers using knuckle dusters and hammers in front of his wife and children.

He was left with severe bruising. Many another person would have found this totally intimidating, but Mr McMahon has shown the courage to speak out forcefully. He has accused the police and politicians of not doing enough to combat paramilitaries, and his words have been taken up by many local people, including those who staged a rally in his support last night.

The police have said - rather lamely - that people who try to terrorise others must be isolated. But the time has come for action and not mere words.

The hypocrisy of loyalism is yet again underlined by the attack on Mr McMahon.

Only a month or so ago representatives from the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando met in Belfast to signal what they described as "demobilisation". How hollow those words must seem to Mr McMahon and his family and friends today.

Once again there is a challenge for the leaders of loyalism to match their words by their actions.

It is some 21 years since the CLMC announcement of a ceasefire, and many more decades since leading loyalists proclaimed themselves as the so-called "leaders" of their communities.

In reality, like their republican counterparts, they are the predators rather than the protectors, and if they choose not to leave the stage voluntarily, Chief Constable George Hamilton should make it his priority to remove them.

It is encouraging to note that the vigil in support of Mr McMahon was successful - but one man cannot take on the loyalist thugs on his own.

Belfast Telegraph

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