Belfast Telegraph

Alliance Party calls for paramilitarism to be eradicated by 2025

Northern Ireland's main cross-community party has called for all paramilitarism to be eradicated within a decade.

Tackling racketeering and exploitation of businesses to fund organised crime and showing zero-tolerance of wall murals and flags which support armed groups were among proposals in the Alliance Party manifesto for next month's Stormont Assembly elections.

One man is dead and another critically ill following unrelated shootings in Belfast and Londonderry in recent days.

A prison officer died following a booby trap bomb explosion under his van linked to a dissident republican group calling itself the New IRA earlier this year - 18 years after the Good Friday Agreement intended to end violence.

The Alliance Party's Stephen Farry said: "There are real ongoing issues of social control, of far too many communities under the jackboot of the paramilitaries.

"Eighteen years on from Good Friday, people have the right to expect that this is long gone from our society and that we have a society based upon the rule of law and that there is no impunity in terms of how the state interacts at a grass roots level with this."

The party said it would pursue a commitment by the next power-sharing administration to tackle all paramilitary and organised crime, and would set a target that by 2025 all threats, intimidation and exclusive claims to territory would be eliminated.

It would also promote better regulation and enforcement of the law surrounding paramilitary flags, murals and bonfires.

Father-of-four Michael McGibbon, 33, was targeted by gunmen in north Belfast on Friday night after he met them - reportedly by appointment - in an alleyway.

The taxi driver was shot three times in the legs in the nationalist Ardoyne area on Friday night - 24 hours after two men came to his house to threaten him.

His wife Joanne, a nurse, tried to save him before he was taken to the city's Royal Victoria Hospital where he later died after undergoing surgery.

Another man is critically ill in hospital following an unrelated shooting in Londonderry's Creggan estate.

The incidents bore the hallmarks of the so-called punishment attacks which paramilitaries used during the Troubles to reinforce their control and terrorise communities.

Dr Farry claimed: "There are some serious issues in terms of how government does interact with this reality on the ground and for that reason we are calling for a public protocol to ensure that government agencies know how to interact in a way to recognise that this is actually a reality and how to actually break it down rather than inadvertently reinforcing it and building up the so-called authority of the de facto gatekeepers in certain communities."

Legislation to establish a commission monitoring paramilitary activity and make Assembly members commit to challenging paramilitary activity has been supported by the House of Commons after a deal was struck last year by Stormont parties.

It followed a killing by members of a Provisional IRA which many people thought no longer existed, which destabilised the powersharing administration.


From Belfast Telegraph