Belfast Telegraph

'You don't feel guilt or remorse' - BBC's Stacey Dooley meets with masked gang behind Northern Ireland punishment shootings

By Gareth Cross

BBC reporter Stacey Dooley met with a masked republican gang behind Belfast punishment shootings in the latest installment of her documentary series.

The latest episode of Stacey Dooley Investigates looks at paramilitary-style punishment attacks in Belfast.

In the documentary, set to be broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland on Tuesday, Dooley was transported in the back of a windowless van to an unknown location to meet the gang.

Three men held weapons and stood infront of a starry plough flag, while a fourth man sat at a desk and answered her questions.

"You don't feel guilt or remorse, it's social action, we have to stand up to the weaker members of the community," a spokesperson told Dooley.

"We want to help people. If you have to shoot somebody to help people then we'll do it.

"If we go to shoot someone it's not off a whim, it's a calculated decision that this person deserves it. "

The men attempted to justify their reasons for carrying out the shootings.

"If people are suffering from mental illness we wouldn't shoot them. We believe that if you have to cause a little pain it will help in the long run," the spokesperson said.

"We might shoot some man and he might feel a bit of pain for six weeks, but he could be out robbing houses, joyriding, selling drugs to the community for ten years.

"We know we're hurting people seriously, but we're hurting a parasite. We do feel pressured into it a lot, and there's a big appetite for it. We feel it is a justified and measured response."

Dooley asked the men if the real motivation for the shootings was control and money.

"We don't live in a normal society so this is how we deal with stuff," the spokesperson said.

"Everybody here, we're just normal men. There's none of us out acting gangsters with gold chains and cars.

"We could be living next door to your grandmother and that's why people fear us so much. We just come out of the shadows, do our deed and go home."

As part of the documentary Dooley also met with Belfast man Robert who was shot in the legs and ankles and hit in the head with a hammer after three masked men entered his home over Christmas last year.

He told her that he thought it was revenge for a fight he'd had with a man a few weeks earlier.

"I was just cutting up food in the kitchen and a masked man appeared. I fought with him and then I heard one of them say 'just cripple the b******'," he told her.

His 10-year-old son witnessed the shooting and he said the attack had a lasting effect on all three of his children.

She also met with two young men who were shot after stealing and "acting up on their estate".

The men, who wished to remain anonymous, had both served spells in prison.

They were shot on appointment, told to meet gunmen.

"I find it completely nuts, like it blows my mind that there seems to be this accepted system where these grown men are deciding how these kids should be dealt with," Dooley said after meeting the pair.

She also visited the Divis Estate and met a young man living under paramilitary threat.

Asked about the threat he said: "I know one day it's coming, but I don't know when that day is."

He said that he uses tablets to help cope with living under threat.

During her time in Belfast Dooley visited Community Restorative Justice and met with Jim McCarthy.

Mr McCarthy said around 300 threats were issued by paramilitary groups in Belfast each year.

She also spoke to Bobby Singleton of the PSNI's Paramilitary Crime Task Force.

He said it was difficult to tackle the issue of punishments shootings because of the lack of engagement from victims and their families.

Dooley also met the family of Belfast man Michael McGibbon who died in 2016 after being shot in a paramilitary-style attack.

He was shot three times. One of the bullets struck an artery in his thigh and he bled to death.

His wife Joanne said she still didn't know the reason he had been shot.

Stacey Dooley Investigates: Shot By My Neighbour is available on the BBC iPlayer from Monday, September 10 at 10pm and will air on BBC One Northern Ireland on Tuesday, September 18 at 11:10pm

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