Editor's Viewpoint: Political vacuum has let evil flourish
No matter how many times we may be disappointed, most of us still regard the beginning of a new year with optimism. Perhaps this will be the year when things domestically, career-wise or health-wise will be better and Northern Ireland will begin to resemble the place the peace process promised.
And then, barely into the second day of the year, comes a sickening reminder of the undercurrent of evil that still exists here. A police officer in Fermanagh was confronted by a masked and armed man on his doorstep in the early hours of the morning. Police regard it as an attempt to kill the officer which, fortunately, failed.
One line of enquiry is that it was carried out by an organised criminal gang, a development which is worrying. It adds another threat to a hard-pressed police force already facing attacks from dissident republicans.
These may be micro-groups but that does not prevent them being deadly on occasion. They may not have the ability to maintain a sustained campaign of violence, but they do have the capability of taking life, as the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in Londonderry last year proved. Their incompetence is as lethal as their planned attacks.
The cowardice of the dissidents and criminal elements stands in stark contrast to the courage and dedication of PSNI officers like the one in Fermanagh who serve the community in uniform and in clear sight while the terrorists and criminals skulk in ambush in the dead of night or attach booby-trap devices to vehicles which could be driven by anyone.
The PSNI needs the support of the whole community in ensuring that the rule of law does indeed rule an d that the men of violence are brought to justice. Young men and women from all shades of opinion within the province should be encouraged to join the force and make Northern Ireland safer for all of us.
The political vacuum of the past three years is a reason why the men of evil have continued to flourish. Filling that vacuum is another compelling reason for the current inter-party talks to succeed in restoring devolution.
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Politicians who are seen to be working for the good of all the people in Northern Ireland and not just content to satisfy their own political silos would do wonders in creating a cohesive society which would give grounds for renewed optimism.