Belfast Telegraph

Vile murder of butchery shows to world true injustice of paramilitary 'justice'

By Henry McDonald

Next Sunday dissident republicans will parade through part of Belfast city centre to commemorate the actual date when the 1916 Rising broke out in Dublin exactly 100 years ago.

It will be an event marked by tension as a number of Ulster loyalist groups have been granted permission to hold counter-demonstrations as the hard-line supporters of the New IRA, Continuity IRA and Oglaigh na hEireann file along the route.

It runs from Donegall Street, along a section of Royal Avenue and up towards Castle Street, heading westwards up the Falls Road and eventually to Milltown Cemetery.

Most people in Belfast and across Northern Ireland will hope the event passes off relatively peacefully and there is no serious disorder on the city streets.

Yet the potential, of course, exists for trouble breaking out and with it, you would think, a robust police response to any violence.

So just picture in your mind the riot squad of the PSNI moving in to separate the rival gatherings.

And in the process they perhaps use batons, water cannon and even plastic baton rounds on the dissident republican supporters.

You can also imagine the outcry from the political representatives of anti-Good Friday Agreement republicans if any of their followers were to be injured, although hopefully no one on any side will be hurt, it has to be said.

They would undoubtedly charge that the PSNI went in with heavy-handed tactics, were guilty of political policing and, wait for it, had committed human rights abuses.

If you hear such accusations you might think back to the events of Friday night and Saturday morning this weekend in Ardoyne.

Remember the squalid alleyway murder of father-of-four Michael McGibbon, who died after being shot in the legs by armed and masked men close to his home.

You might recall that the last person to see Mr McGibbon alive but bleeding to death was his wife, a nurse who tried to save her husband's life.

The harrowing details of the man's slide towards death, relayed so movingly by the deeply humane Holy Cross priest Father Gary Donegan, could have been the description of a scene from Syria, where Isis leave a victim of their summary justice in such a revolting, life-threatening state.

The import of this terrible event cannot be forgotten. Within hours of Mr McGibbon's death there were accusations on pro-republican websites about the reasons he was singled out for such brutal summary justice.

It would be utterly inappropriate and morally repugnant to repeat any of those allegations here.

In fact, what needs to be said is that the only lesson to be drawn from this vile murder is that it once again highlights the injustice of paramilitary 'justice'.

There was no judge, no jury, no evidence, no cross-examination, no right to appeal for Michael McGibbon. Just like other victims of 'community policing' such as Andrew Kearney or Paul Quinn, whose only crime was to win fist fights with 'made men' of the PIRA, Mr McGibbon did not enjoy a fair trial and due process in law.

The courts system is imperfect and in my view the sentences handed out to those who commit crimes against the person, especially sex offenders, are far too lenient.

Yet the alternative offered by paramilitaries violates basic human rights and common decency.

Belfast Telegraph

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