Belfast Telegraph

Paramilitary 'punishment' attacks destroy lives and blight communities... we can turn a blind eye to them no longer

Editor's Viewpoint

Today we publish a story about a youth worker Paul Smyth, who has been interviewing some young people who have been the victims of punishment-style attacks. He has published his report on a blog.

It is harrowing reading and gives details of the life of a young man he met who had a very tough start as a child and who fell into criminality.

The story also speaks of the vision of others who are selflessly trying to help people trapped in such circumstances.

This week there was another savage attack in Londonderry, with a man shot by paramilitaries. The pictures released by the police are most disturbing.

These incidents are part of the everyday suffering found in our communities, but they are quickly overlooked.

Such brutal attacks, if they occurred in any other part of the UK, would be high on the news agenda for days on end. These savage incidents are part of the trappings of the Troubles and, as our story today reveals, they usually result in severe maiming and life-changing injuries for the victims.

The most chilling part of these tales is not only the violence, but the sense of hopelessness of these young people, who eventually attend an appointment to be brutally attacked in some back alley.

These attacks raise many questions, including where do the punishment weapons come from, and why are the attackers rarely caught? All of this should result in widespread community revulsion, greater action by the police to prevent the attacks and the full force of the law being applied to the perpetrators.

There is no point in saying that these problems are specific only to certain areas and accepting that people in peaceful places can look the other way.

This is a condemnation and a blight on all of us and on the kind of Northern Ireland that we are hopefully trying to establish.

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