Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland communities urged to help police after paramilitary attacks rise

By Staff Reporter

Paramilitary-style shootings have doubled over the past year, the PSNI has revealed.

The total number of victims was 28 - which is twice the number recorded the year before, latest police statistics show.

There was also an increase in the number of casualties of paramilitary-style assaults, with 58 last year to 66 over the same period this year.

Loyalist paramilitary gangs were behind 56 of these casualties, with the remaining 10 attributed to republican groups, the PSNI said.

The increase has led to urgent calls from police and church leaders for communities to help end these "barbaric" attacks.

Detective Superintendent Bobby Singleton said that around 6% of the paramilitary-style attacks carried out last year were against people under 18.

"An attack against a person of any age, but particularly a child, is completely unacceptable in any society."

He appealed to communities not to ignore these attacks but to give information over to the police, and said that in recent weeks police had made a number of arrests in connection with various paramilitary-style attacks.

Church leaders also joined together to call for an end to the scourge of paramilitary attacks.

Speaking today, the United Nations' Universal Children's Day, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh Richard Clarke, president of the Methodist Church in Ireland Dr Laurence Graham, Catholic Archbishop of Armagh Eamon Martin, president of the Irish Council of Churches Bishop John McDowell and Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland Dr Noble McNeely, raised concerns about the impact these attacks have on the lives of young people.

"Too many in our society continue to be exposed to this violence at an early age, either as victims of direct attacks, or as members of families subjected to attacks or intimidation," they said in a joint statement.

The church leaders warned funding cuts and financial uncertainty threaten community work aimed at giving young people better opportunities.

Peter Osborne, chairman of the Community Relations Council, urged people to stand up against paramilitary attacks.

He said: "I'm proud of the children and young people here; they are an asset to our shared community and this region.

"On Universal Children's Day we should respect our children and support their development.

"We should reject abuse, including the child abuse visited on children by vigilantes."

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