Belfast Telegraph

No acceptable level of paramilitarism

Editor's Viewpoint

The election is over and people have had their say. However, it is striking how little discussion there was in the pre-election debates about the scourge of paramilitary violence, which is still very much with us.

This is ironic, to say the least, when one considers that the last weeks of the election campaign witnessed two murder bids on police officers, as well as punishment-style shootings and the expulsions of children, and a couple in their 50s who were brutally attacked in their home by paramilitaries.

In today's paper we also carry stories about the victims and survivors of our pervading violence.

But all these people received scant, if any, mention in the leaders' television debates and the campaign in general.

In the last leaders' BBC debate, which attracted a large audience, there was a degree of edginess that made for good television, but there was no detailed discussion of paramilitary violence.

In fact, Michelle O'Neill of Sinn Fein managed to face both ways by attending a commemoration in her home village of Clonoe in Co Tyrone for four IRA men shot dead by the SAS, while just a few days later she was outlining an anti-sectarian campaign. Loyalist paramilitarism did not feature strongly in the campaign either, and there was no mention of UDA leader Dee Stitt's membership of Charter NI, which received substantial funding from the Stormont administration.

At another level, Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has been accused of dragging his heels in producing a framework to deal with the past.

Have we still got no further forward on this emotive subject?

It seems as if we have become conditioned almost subconsciously to an "acceptable" level of violence, given the rate of punishment shootings and other dissident attacks, even if these are substantially fewer than before.

These are still unacceptable in terms of normalising society.

In any other part of the UK they would lead the news agenda for days.

The only tolerance we can have for violence must be zero tolerance.

If and when our MLAs reconvene at Stormont, with packed inboxes, they must find the time - and more importantly the will - to address this distressing and intractable problem that has defied any solution thus far.

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