Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents running parts of Derry, claims Sinn Fein after latest paramilitary shooting

By Donna Deeney

A series of paramilitary shootings in Londonderry gives the impression that it is dissident republicans who are in control of parts of the city rather than the PSNI, Sinn Fein has claimed.

Dissidents were again blamed for a shooting in the city at the weekend - the 15th time guns were used in attacks on people and property in the Derry and Strabane council area this year.

The spike in terror attacks will be discussed by Sinn Fein when it meets the PSNI tomorrow.

A 44-year-old man is recovering after being shot once in the leg on Sunday evening by armed and masked gunmen who dragged him into a tunnel along the Madam's Bank Road where he was walking with a friend.

It came days after a 17-year-old male was shot in the leg by gunmen who burst into his mother's home in the Bogside, and less than two weeks after shots were fired at a house in Racecourse Park in the Shantallow area.

In another recent incident, gunmen forced their way into a house in Altcar Park in Shantallow where they caused extensive damage, although no shots were fired.

The latest shooting happened on Sunday shortly after 8pm and was described as "brutal and horrific" by police, but it has also raised questions about the apparent impunity with which dissidents in Derry appear to be able to operate.

People living in Shantallow close to where the 44-year-old victim lives and where an unrelated gun attack took place in August said they feel let down by the police.

One man who lives on the same street as this latest victim said: "I have mixed feelings about this if I am being honest.

"On one hand it sickens me that there seems to be no law and order in some parts of Derry, including Shantallow, so the dissidents have moved in and taken over.

"The police are not really in charge as far as I see but this could be because people are not going to them to report stuff so there isn't much they can do. But you do feel they could do more.

"People are going to the dissidents to report crime and anti-social behaviour and there is no getting away from that.

"Personally I would rather see the police in here dealing with crime but I do understand that not everybody living around here or Creggan or the Bogside are comfortable doing that."

However, another resident was critical of anyone who turned to paramilitaries instead of the police.

She said: "Anyone who goes to the dissidents is as guilty as they are and need to take the blame for the attack on this man and on that wee 17-year-old last week.

"The police are trying their best but the problem in a lot of cases is the courts who are far too soft on criminals if you ask me."

Sinn Fein councillor Sandra Duffy and party colleagues including Foyle MP Elisha McCallion will meet with the PSNI in Derry tomorrow to discuss the increase in gun attacks.

She said: "There is a perception that it is not the police who are in charge on the streets of Derry.

"We are very alarmed at the high number of gun attacks over the recent days, weeks and months and whatever the police are doing it is not obvious to the public.

"There is the perception that these armed groups are acting with complete impunity so we need to know exactly what the police are doing.

"I certainly hope this isn't a case of people not reporting to the police. The police service is there to be used and if someone isn't comfortable going directly to the police they can always contact their local community representative."

In response, Chief Inspector Alan Hutton insisted the PSNI does have the support of the vast majority of people in Derry.

He said: "There are people there who are seeking to exercise control over the communities but they are fighting a losing battle because the overwhelming majority of the community is opposed to these acts.

"The PSNI is the only legitimate policing service in Northern Ireland, holding human rights at the heart of our actions for all our citizens.

"The impact of this kind of attack on individuals, families and communities can be severe and yet many turn a blind eye to what is happening on their streets, either through fear or indifference.

"It is incredible to think that there are those in society who see these brutal attacks as in any way justifiable or acceptable.

"However, to bring those responsible for such crimes before the courts, we need evidence and support to enable us to conduct the most thorough investigation possible.

"There are often a number of challenges for a variety of reasons in these types of investigations - often injured parties are unable or unwilling to provide information that would help to identity offenders, and witnesses are often unwilling to cooperate, possibly due to fear of reprisal.

"Policing has a clear part to play in reducing the number of these attacks and bringing perpetrators before the courts, but without evidence success in detection is extremely limited."

Anyone with any information about Sunday's shooting can call the PSNI at Strand Road on 101, quoting reference 1298 12/11/17, or the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555 111.

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