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Lindy McDowell: Paramilitary murder is just what happens here ... but the victim is someone’s father, husband or son

Toni Johnston-Ogle at the spot in Cluan Place where her father Ian was murdered
Toni Johnston-Ogle at the spot in Cluan Place where her father Ian was murdered
Ian Ogle
Andy Murray (andymurray) after undergoing hip resurfacing surgery.
Amber the red panda

By Lindy McDowell

Not surprisingly the one story that has dominated news headlines in Northern Ireland this week has been the murder - the gruesome, brutal, shocking murder - of east Belfast man Ian Ogle.

It's dominated headlines here. Elsewhere, though, not so much.

One of the striking, chilling aspects of media coverage of the slaying was the sparse attention given to the story by national news outlets.

True, it has been (yet another) busy week on the Brexit front. And London, in particular, is currently dealing with its own spate of savage knife crime.

But that's not to say there wasn't obvious space in the national bulletins for breaking news from these parts.

Take, for example, 'Red Panda escapes from Belfast Zoo'.

How is it that a report about a small exotic mammal breaking out of its enclosure garners more attention than the bloody murder of a human being?

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From a media standpoint the answer to that is that murder here is not exactly news.

To borrow a line from the beer ad, it's our thing.

Or so it seems to be seen by those from outside.

It's what they've come to expect from here.

Year in, year out, repetitive and endless reports of paramilitary slayings and punishment attacks.

That's Northern Ireland, they think. That's their thing. It's what someone once shamefully described as an acceptable level of violence.

The national media have had other stories to focus on this week. Political climax and polar vortex.

Their Beast from the East is meteorological.

And it's true that back here, reports of the murder also evoke that same sense of grim repetition. Yet another awful slaying...

But every single murder here is distinguished by a particular horror all its own. A monstrous twist... and an enduring image that haunts.

For some this week the most harrowing images will have come from a video of the mutilated corpse of the dead man - a video that was posted online by his daughter.

For me it was her words.

"That's my daddy. That's my daddy."

How many more daddies? How many more sons, brothers?

And how do we stop this ever happening again?

Is there even a will to stop this happening ever again?

All these years, after the signing of the Agreement which supposedly would rid us of the scourge of criminal paramilitary gangs, they freely operate on both sides of the community like the comfortably-entrenched money-making conglomerates they've become.

We have illegal terror gangs trading as community-orientated enterprises.

Illegal gangs. Headed by godfathers whose identity everybody knows. Yet who go about their business unperturbed and unbothered. Much like that nice Mr Capone.

Paramilitarism has been so assimilated into society here that, as with the weather, there seems to be a consensus there's not a whole lot you can do about it.

Anywhere else you'd have local politicians pressuring the police to tackle the godfathers.

Here politicians worry about rattling cages too much in case it costs them votes.

And so it goes on.

This week another family fleetingly finds itself in the headlines.

The real story is the heartbreak they'll live with forever after.

A family bereft. The neighbours around them traumatised and in fear. The entire local community shocked and appalled.

And a grief-stricken daughter for whom it's much, much more than just this week's big headline.

It's her daddy.

Andy double faults in surgery pics

'Too much information' X-ray of the week came from tennis player Sir Andy Murray, who posted a pic online (right) of the image of the new pin in his hip. This also exposed further more private anatomical detail. And another post-operative pic he posted of himself in a hospital bed was seized on by American medics, who criticised the way the drip - or cannula - had been inserted in his arm. In future, maybe an idea, Andy, to keep your cannula covered.

Turkeys wouldn’t vote for Brexit

Well, that's it then. The one anti-Brexit argument to frighten even a Farage. The potential return of turkey twizzlers. Apparently, if schools stretched to providing nutritious meals for children do fall short, they may have to resort to the twizzlers of old. As one Labour MP succinctly puts it: "Jamie Oliver will be having kittens." I doubt if the turkeys will be too thrilled either. No explanation, though, as to why turkey twizzlers may be plentiful while, say, chicken may be in short supply.

Querying the need for a zoo after red alert

Apropos the escapee red panda that made headlines everywhere this week, in some ways it was a bit off a disappointment.

I envisaged something on the scale of one of its big monochrome cousins, chomping on a bamboo cane. Instead it was a strange wee thing — part cat, part Basil Brush.

One wag referred to it as ‘the Red Panda Ulster’. And we all breathed a sigh of relief when it was eventually rounded up and returned to base. Except that, like Belfast councillor Chris McGimpsey, I have strong misgivings about the need for a zoo in Belfast in 2019.

Belfast Zoo is a conservation zoo and I do not doubt the integrity, expertise and caring nature of the staff there. The majority of its 1,000-plus animals are, like the red panda, in danger in their natural habitat.

But might this conservation work not better be carried out closer to those animals’ natural habitat?

In 2019 the idea of exotic, majestic animals — many of them native to warmer climes than outer Glengormley — being kept in quite small enclosures on the side of Cavehill is surely a bit outdated.

When the zoo was built in the 1930s there was an argument that it allowed people, who might otherwise never get the chance, the opportunity to see all those beautiful creatures relatively up close. But in the era of Attenborough and cheap travel the magical world of wildlife is accessible in ways that wouldn’t have been dreamt off back then.

I really don’t think we are doing creatures a good turn by locking them up. However expansive and well appointed the accommodation, it’s not their ‘natural habitat’.

It’s not the wild.

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