Belfast Telegraph

It's a crime to reject UK's FBI: Latest example of how dysfunctional Stormont is

Editor's Viewpoint

We never have to look far to see new evidence of how dysfunctional the Stormont administration really is. The latest example is how the fight against serious organised crime – involving local, national and international gangsters – is being hampered by the farcical failure to allow the National Crime Agency (NCA) to operate in Northern Ireland.

Dubbed the UK's FBI, the NCA has the expertise and the resources to investigate serious offences such as drug and people trafficking, importation of firearms and money laundering.

Equally importantly, it has the powers to seize criminal assets, a measure which can really hurt the gangs.

The new Chief Constable George Hamilton has provided hard evidence of how criminals are escaping justice because of the failure to allow the NCA to work here. On top of that, the hard-pressed PSNI is being put under additional pressure because it cannot call on the NCA for assistance.

So what is the problem? Sinn Fein and the SDLP refused to back legislation allowing the NCA to operate here.

They cite fears over lack of control and oversight, but these reasons seem exaggerated, at best, given the concessions that have already been made.

Both parties will have a difficult job explaining away the irrefutable evidence presented by the chief constable on the consequences of their objections.

Like their opposition to welfare reform, the results of the impasse are infinitely worse than if the measures were allowed to go through.

In this case, hardened criminal gangs are thumbing their nose at the law because the resources to bring them to justice are so terribly limited.

The rhetoric of Sinn Fein on opposition to the NCA may be familiar and unsurprising given that party's history, but the SDLP's position is mystifying.

Is it trying to show the nationalist electorate it can be as tough as Sinn Fein on policing issues or as green as the republicans?

That is a tactic which will not work. What the SDLP should be doing is putting clear water between itself and Sinn Fein, showing it has radical, bright ideas for transforming Northern Ireland and building the peace it fought so hard to create. Instead, it just seems to have run out of steam.

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