Belfast Telegraph

Naomi Long: I want to cut off paramilitary gangs' supply of recruits

Ian Ogle with daughter Toni
Ian Ogle with daughter Toni
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

Naomi Long has said she wants to stamp out paramilitaries and paramilitary structures.

The new Justice Minister also called for an end to paramilitary-style attacks following a shooting incident in west Belfast on Monday night that left a 39-year-old man with life-changing injuries.

Yesterday she reiterated her commitment to working with Executive colleagues to end the harm caused by terror groups, especially in places such as east and west Belfast.

"There should be no paramilitaries and no paramilitary structures in our society. That's my bottom line," she said. "I want to work with others to ensure that, first of all, we cut off the supply of new recruits to paramilitary organisations.

"I believe some of that is about tackling issues around mental health and drug dependency, but also around under-achievement and exclusion from school.

"A lot of young people get drawn into paramilitary activity because they feel that there are no alternatives in their community."

The Alliance leader was speaking ahead of the anniversary of the murder of Ian Ogle (45), an east Belfast community worker killed by paramilitaries close to his home on Cluan Place last January.

Ms Long said she knew the victim's daughter and knew how much his murder had affected the Ogle family.

"I have met Ian's daughter, Toni, and I am aware of the huge impact this has had on their lives," she added.

"Not just since her father died, but actually before that with intimidation and since with intimidation directed towards her, her mother and her brother. I want that to stop. I want people in our community to be able to live free of fear and intimidation.

"The Department of Justice is about building shared and safer communities.

"That's what I want to deliver and we can't do that when we have active paramilitaries on the streets.

"We also can't do it in a meaningful way unless the paramilitary structures in those organisations are broken down."

Referring to Monday's shooting, she added: "The actions of those who terrorise their own community by bringing guns on to the streets must be condemned by all of us.

"Such attacks have no place in a Northern Ireland that is trying to move forward."

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