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Police were right to step in over funeral

Editors' viewpoint

Published 06/05/2016

Controversial: A guard of honour flanks the coffin of Michael Barr at his funeral in Strabane Co Tyrone this morning
Controversial: A guard of honour flanks the coffin of Michael Barr at his funeral in Strabane Co Tyrone this morning

The vast majority of people in Northern Ireland will welcome the action taken by the PSNI in the wake of a paramilitary display at the funeral of dissident republican Michael Barr in Strabane yesterday.

Fifteen men were arrested after the funeral on suspicion of being members of a terrorist organisation, the New IRA.

The PSNI has denied that the arrests were motivated by widespread criticism that followed the failure of police to act at earlier paramilitary shows of strength in Lurgan, north Belfast and Coalisland over the Easter period, and in Londonderry at the funeral of the mother of hunger striker Patsy O'Hara last July.

We have to take the denial at face value, but a senior PSNI officer admitted that the public expected it to act when an apparent crime was being committed.

To most people, the sight of members of a self-promoting terror organisation strutting the streets in paramilitary-style uniforms is not only a crime, but an affront to this society.

It was recently revealed that loyalist and republican paramilitary groups have been responsible for 22 killings and almost 4,000 so-called punishment attacks in the past decade. Just recently, with the death of Ardoyne man Michael McGibbon, we saw the tragic result of one of those attacks as he was left to bleed to death in an alleyway despite the efforts of his wife to save his life.

These groups obey no law but their own. They do not take any heed of public opinion or the changed political environment in Northern Ireland. They are simply intent in imposing their will on the public through force and fear.

It is entirely proper that the only lawful force in the province, the PSNI, should take appropriate action against terrorists when the opportunity arises.

The senior officer pointed out that in some cases the preferred course of action was to record events and seek out suspected wrong-doers at a later date. In others, such as yesterday, it was right to take immediate action against those believed to be members of a terror organisation.

Indeed, this ability to switch tactics to suit the occasion gives the PSNI an element of surprise and keeps the groups wrong-footed.

However they do it, the police must ensure that they confront paramilitary groups at every opportunity.

Northern Ireland's sad history of terrorism must not be allowed to repeat itself.

Belfast Telegraph

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