Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Dissidents' display is an affront

A paramilitary guard during the funeral of veteran IRA man Tony Catney, which took place in  west Belfast on Wednesday
A paramilitary guard during the funeral of veteran IRA man Tony Catney, which took place in west Belfast on Wednesday

The sight of masked men in paramilitary garb on the streets of Belfast, flanking the coffin of a former republican terrorist, is a throwback to the nightmare of the Troubles.

Northern Ireland's peace may be imperfect, but the atmosphere is immeasurably improved from the days when terrorists like Tony Catney held sway.

The former IRA man became a murderer in his teens and later left Sinn Fein because he disagreed with the party's political strategy.

He joined the dissident republican movement and, in an interview, hailed a number of killings carried out by dissidents.

That perhaps was the clearest indication of a mindset which harked back to the days when terrorist violence was an everyday occurrence.

Catney had nothing positive to offer society here and those who formed that shabby guard of honour at his funeral have no place in the new Northern Ireland.

They are part of an inglorious past and the PSNI must do all in its power to identify and arrest them.

In the past, facial mapping techniques have been used to identify masked terrorists and that is one potential avenue which should be explored.

The biggest task facing Northern Ireland at present is how to come to terms with its past. There are many painful legacy issues to be dealt with and that task is not made any easier by the sight of a paramilitary demonstration.

It is clear that the dissidents want to create a more visible presence in a bid to entice gullible young people into their ranks. This is a tactic which must be resisted by all right-thinking people.

We know all too well from the past that paramilitary violence only creates hurt and division.

The healing process will take many years and dissident republicans certainly have nothing positive to contribute as we seek to make our bloody past a distant memory.

And the sight of masked men on the streets again is nothing short of an affront and should not be tolerated.

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