Belfast Telegraph

Dozen death threats each week from dissident vigilante gangs in Northern Ireland

By Deborah McAleese

Dissident republican terrorists in Belfast are issuing at least 12 death threats every week as part of their violent vigilante campaign.

Officers have said that while they know the identity of those who are terrorising their local communities, they are finding it "virtually impossible" to root them out due to a lack of evidence from victims and witnesses.

At least three people in north Belfast are understood to have received warnings last week from the same dissident republican group that murdered taxi driver Michael McGibbon on Friday in an "appointment shooting".

He bled to death in an alleyway after being shot in the leg three times.

To date nobody has been charged with the father-of-four's murder. Prominent Ardoyne dissident republican Dee Fennell was questioned about the shooting but later released without charge.

"Death threats and 'punishment' attacks happen daily. I would say we get a dozen a week death threats throughout north and west Belfast. And they are just the ones we are told about," one officer said.

He added: "There's a few groups active. Ardoyne ones would be at it, as would Turf Lodge/Ballymurphy."

Another said: "We know who these guys are but it's virtually impossible to get the evidence against them as people aren't coming forward to talk to police."

Many communities in Londonderry are also being controlled by hardline republicans who believe they are supported in the meting out of violent 'justice'.

Last night a 25-year-old man remained in a critical condition in hospital after he was shot twice in the leg in a so-called punishment attack by dissident republican's in the city's Creggan area on Monday.

The most up-to-date police statistics show that from March 2015 to February this year there were 62 casualties of republican and loyalist paramilitary-style assaults and 22 casualties of shootings.

Clearance rates remain extremely low.

Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said there was an acceptance of paramilitary law within some communities, which he blamed on Northern Ireland's "slow and lenient judicial system".

"Communities see drug dealers, car criminals, burglars, all getting arrested and then being let out by the courts with a slap on the wrist to do it all again. That's why there is support in some areas for this type of thing," said Mr Craig.

He added: "Take a recent case in my area where a drug dealer was arrested by police and brought to court.

"His lawyer got him out on bail and due to long delays in his case coming to trial he was caught five more times committing drugs offences.

"In some communities this type of thing leads to an acceptance that these groups are dishing out punishment."

Policing expert Dr Jonny Byrne, a lecturer in criminology at Ulster University, said so-called punishment attacks were about power.

"There is no legitimacy for these activities, there is no ideological or political rational for shooting and murdering people. This is not about informal or summary justice that is in the interests of the community. This is about power and the promotion of self-interests," Dr Byrne said.

He added: "Its gangsterism and criminality rolled into one."

Belfast Telegraph


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