Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Parade response is a welcome one

It is evident that for the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland the terrorist campaign is well and truly over.

This is shown day in and day out by the welcome extended to the PSNI in what would previously have been hostile nationalist areas and by Sinn Fein's embrace of policing. That led to criticism of the low-key police response to a provocative dissident republican parade in Londonderry at the weekend.

Ordinary people - including those who have bravely challenged the Republican Action Against Drugs gang which has shot and threatened a number of people in the city and surrounding areas in recent months - wondered how the Real IRA could use the occasion to issue threats against the security forces and escape with apparent impunity. The police admitted that their response was low key but said they would gather evidence of wrong-doing and act accordingly.

Last night they showed their willingness to take action by arresting a number of people in relation to the parade. They obviously felt that trying to apprehend anyone during the parade and speeches would only lead to greater public disorder and that their response was more efficient and more effective in the longer term.

Whatever the public misgivings, it is best to rely on the experience of the police on the ground as to the best operational approach.

However the public will want to see justice being done. They will demand that the police and prosecuting authorities build a strong evidential case against people accused of wrong-doing and that they are brought to court. Arrests must not be seen as a way of assuaging public disquiet and then allowing the matter to be quietly dropped.

There is minimal support for those who would drag this community back into conflict and the police must clamp down hard on them. The public, of course, can assist by giving police the necessary evidence to apprehend those in the dissident republican ranks.

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