Belfast Telegraph

Terrorist thuggery needs stamped out

Editor's Viewpoint

There is a depressing familiarity in the news emerging of another shooting that bears all the hallmarks of a paramilitary-style attack.

The location this time was Coleraine and the victims were a mother and son, who were shot by a masked intruder who burst into their home.

Suspicion will fall on loyalist paramilitaries, who are active in the town and have been responsible for a number of similar incidents in the last few years.

And recently there has also been heightened concern about an upsurge in this type of activity from violent dissident republican groups in west Belfast.

Just last week a 16-year-old boy was shot in what is thought to have been the seventh such attack in the area in two months.

It is a clear challenge to the PSNI whose senior officers have responded by stating unequivocally that they are the only police service in operation in that part of the city - and that no such vigilante activity will be tolerated.

Across Northern Ireland PSNI statistics show that there have been 23 casualties of paramilitary-style shootings in the year to the end of January and 68 people who have been the victim of assaults by these groups.

These figures present a measure of how paramilitaries are trying to keep their grip on some communities more than 20 years after their ceasefires.

By their nature these crimes are difficult for police to investigate and officers often encounter a wall of silence in the communities in which they take place. There are of course those who offer misguided support to the gangs dishing out this backstreet justice, but they themselves can only hope that the knock never comes to their own door.

These brutal assaults are a blight on our society and are a grim reminder of a time which all right-thinking citizens would hope has gone for good.

The PSNI must be given the support needed to do their job - in terms of co-operation from the public and receiving the unambiguous backing of public representatives.

Officers on the ground must also be handed the resources and legal powers - strengthened if necessary - to identify and prosecute the self-appointed 'protectors of the people'.

When the perpetrators are brought before courts, appropriate sentences must be handed down that send out a clear message that this thuggery belongs to a bygone era and will no longer be tolerated.

Belfast Telegraph

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