Belfast Telegraph

1,100 bombs and shootings in 10 years: The figures that prove terrorism hasn't gone away

The scene at Magowan Park in Derry where a man was shot in both legs and critically injured earlier this month
The scene at Magowan Park in Derry where a man was shot in both legs and critically injured earlier this month
Michael McGibbon, who died after he was shot in north Belfast

By Chris McCullough

Violent paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland has resulted in 1,100 bombings and shootings over the past 10 years, along with almost 800 so-called punishment attacks and 4,000 cases of people being forced out of their homes.

The alarming figures, released by the Belfast-based Detail Data website, were compiled from police, prison, court and public transport records.

They make clear that there are still thousands of people associated with paramilitary groups responsible for acts of violence and intimidation.

According to the website, such groups were responsible for 22 killings, more than 1,000 shootings and bombings, 787 paramilitary-style attacks and nearly 4,000 reports of people forced to flee their homes between 2006 and 2015.

Between 2007 and 2015, just 80 convictions were secured under terrorism legislation, leading to a paltry 48 prison terms.

The Detail report said there was still a large amount of weaponry in circulation, and it criticised the authorities for failing to tackle violence some 20 years into the peace process.

A government-appointed panel is supposed to present recommendations on disbanding paramilitary groups just weeks after the May 5 Assembly election.

Police experts believe that 33 Northern Ireland's 134 organised crime gangs have direct links to paramilitaries, and that they make tens of millions of pounds each year from activities including illegal fuel laundering and drug dealing.

Detail Data also sent Freedom of Information requests to Translink and the PSNI asking about the number of security alerts and attacks that forced road closures and brought rail travel grinding to a halt.

The responses revealed that from 2013 to 2015, there were 193 road closures, while between 2006 and 2015, there were 176 security alerts on railway lines, halting more than 4,000 scheduled train services.

Alan McBride, from support group Belfast Wave Trauma Centre, lost his wife Sharon in the 1993 IRA Shankill bombing. He said the situation was a disgrace.

"At least 50% of our referrals today are in relation to ongoing intimidation," Mr McBride added. "In terms of this centre, we would have on average between 30 and 35 new referrals a month. I think that 18 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, that is not acceptable."

Despite the success of the peace process in ending large-scale violence, police seized 849 firearms and 495kgs of explosives between 2006 and 2015.

Police Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said the full picture was unclear because of the way data was collected.

"That is very much down to government recording methodology, which states that a terrorist attack is one that is against a national security target," he added. "Our issue is that it doesn't actually give you a true picture of where we are. We are missing all the paramilitary attacks, all the incidents of terrorism that aren't necessarily directed against police or military."

The Rev Dr Gary Mason from Rethinking Conflict, which has worked closely with loyalist paramilitaries to deliver peaceful outcomes, added: "At the heart of the loyalist groups, there would be a leadership of 30 to 40 people, then a membership of several thousand."

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