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Linda McDowell: Yes, police must act on KKK clowns, but focus should be thugs who shot dad in front of his teenage daughter

By Lindy McDowell

In Northern Ireland this week a gang of armed and masked men entered a house and savagely beat a man in front of his little girl. They shot him in both arms and in both legs. Terrified, his daughter ran upstairs. One man chased after her, threatening her until she came out from where she was hiding.

She was clutching her piggy bank. She offered it to the masked gangster.

Take it, she said. Take it, and let my daddy go.

The girl is described as a teenager. The heartrending naivete of her desperate attempt to save her father would suggest she's not a very old one.

She's a child.

A child who will probably take to her grave the emotional scars of the horror she witnessed in a country town in Co Derry this week.

If this had happened in say, Syria, we would, of course, be outraged and revolted.

But it happened up near Coleraine and... well... these things happen and besides, there's other things for us to get outraged about.

Halloween outfits for a start...

I don't for one second condone the idiots who decided it would be a hoot to pose for pics this week outside the local Islamic centre in Newtownards wearing KKK regalia, but the comment of one local woman did resonate.

Yes, it was appalling, she told a reporter. But if there was a will to track these men down, how come the same rigour doesn't seem to apply to tackling paramilitaries in the town?

There's currently a nationwide debate, initiated by police chiefs themselves, over the clash between expenditure on "hate crime" and on, say, burglaries.

Hate crime is a pretty wide umbrella term - and one that's getting ever wider.

The crimes involved range from someone saying something vile on social media, to the sort of horrific slaughter we saw this week in a Pittsburgh synagogue.

Some might argue these two things are not unconnected.

But it's fair to say bloody murder is way, way more serious than dubious tweeting.

For the police, though, the burden of investigating the latter is growing.

The answer? Do we need a different form of, or an adjunct to, the current policing service? An online force tasked specifically with patrolling social media (and checking out fancy dress outfits)?

Paid for, perhaps, by an extra tax levied on the fabulously wealthy internet giants who are currently all profit, no responsibility.

All of us would agree that some sort of action needs to be taken against the likes of the KKK clowns.

Against any behaviour that is intimidatory and inflammatory (although, then again, if Barry McElduff doesn't have a case to answer...)

But the effort and resources channelled into that shouldn't eclipse the police's focus on going after the big boys. The gangsters, the paramilitaries, the violent, the crime lords.

What touched me most this week was that we know the details of what happened to that little girl in Garvagh only because one understandably very angry cop in Limavady just exploded online, outlining the story, expressing his or her disgust.

Not as a police officer.

But as a decent human being.

"My heart is broken for this girl," the poster said.

Policing is being stretched and pulled in all directions. And everybody can identify a different priority.

But that shouldn't blind us to the big picture.

And the big picture this week wasn't that internet image of men in pointy headgear.

It was the mental image of a terrified little girl offering a masked gunman her piggy bank to try to save her daddy.

Political 'brats' throw hissy fit

Another week, another strunt at Stormont. Local party representatives met Secretary of State Karen Bradley — and came away spitting tacks that she hadn’t got them all talking nicely to each other again. Instead of hurling abuse at each other via the media, social and mainstream. As they do.

The message from our bunch of squabbling political brats? It’s up to our mammy from England to swoop in and make it all alright again. But — how dare she? — she hasn’t.

“Unacceptable,” says Naomi Long, Alliance.

“Waste of time,” sniffs Colum Eastwood, SDLP.

“Badly advised,” adds Robin Swann, UUP.

Here’s an idea for these parties caught in the middle of the current stand-off between DUP and Sinn Fein.

What about doing something about it yourselves?

Maybe hold a meeting between all the other parties outside of the Assembly Big Two and decide on a joint strategy to bypass the impasse.

Some dismay has been expressed this week for those MLAs who have had their salaries cut, despite not being from the two largest parties now locking horns.

I can’t say I feel too sorry for any of them.

The country is on its knees — but their attitude is that’s out of their hands.

MLA pay has been cut. But it’s still a good wage for bickering, posturing, and blaming everybody else.

As we say out here in the real world, beats working for a living.

US politics big on entertainment

To Trump or not to Trump. That is the central issue in the American mid-term elections, which are being seen as a referendum on the former reality TV show host turned President. Among cheerleaders for the opposition Democrats are pop star Taylor Swift and chat show host Oprah Winfrey, who insists she is not testing the waters for a tilt at the White House herself. Meanwhile Kanye West, last seen in the Oval Office hugging Donald, is now "distancing" himself from politics. US electioneering - that's entertainment.

Beauty firm gets bit of a lashing

A beauty company has been criticised by the Advertising Standards Authority for Ireland following complaints that its "real mink eyelashes" were not, as billed, "cruelty free". The lashes are made from mink hair. The firm claims this is "harvested" by trimming or brushing the coat of the wee creature. Which is kept in a small, cramped cage. Aside from the treatment of the poor animal, another question this story raises is how many consumers actually knew their false lashes were mink hair. What you'd call an eye opener.

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