Death threats belong in the past
The death threat received by a family in the Short Strand area of Belfast again raises the spectre of the continued existence of the IRA. A bullet inside a sympathy card bearing the letters IRA was sent to the family, causing police to warn them to increase their home security.
While there is no concrete evidence that the threat came from the IRA, the fact that family members are blaming republicans lends weight to that probability.
The family are friends of the family of Kevin McGuigan who was shot dead in the area recently. The Chief Constable claimed that current members of the IRA were among those responsible for the murder, a claim that provoked the current political crisis at Stormont.
Those who deny that the IRA still exists, even in a benign form, have to answer the question of why any family would put themselves at risk by claiming they were under threat from the IRA unless they truly believed that was the case.
The Short Strand is a close-knit community where people know exactly what is happening on the ground and when local people say that they believe the IRA is still active in that area, their claims come with a certain credibility.
But whoever is behind this incident, it is appalling that death threats are still being issued against families in 2015, some 20 years after both republican and loyalist terrorists said the violence was over for good.
Families are being left in fear and are being forced out of their homes simply because they have run foul of former or current paramilitary groups. While police may have intelligence on who is responsible for particular incidents, it appears very difficult to gain the sort of evidence which will stand up in court and bring the perpetrators to justice.
This latest threat comes at a time when there are tentative signs that the political parties may be about to engage in meaningful talks about saving the power-sharing administration which currently is in a state of chaos.
What is very clear is that some mechanism needs to be created to establish the standing of the various paramilitary groups in this province and whether they are engaged in terrorism and/or criminality. The shadow of the gun cannot be allowed to fall over any party in government if we are to have a proper democratic and stable administration here.