Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Punishment attacks a scourge on society

Editor's Viewpoint

Once again there are horrific headlines about a so-called "punishment" beating. This time it occurred in Ballymoney in the small hours of yesterday morning when a teenager was shot four times in a paramilitary-style attack.

The 18-year-old was shot once in each arm and leg by unknown intruders. The police called the attackers "dangerous and violent individuals". The young man's injuries are not thought to be life-threatening, but the psychological and longer-term effects of such barbarity may be incalculable.

Sadly many such attacks in Northern Ireland are regarded almost as routine, because they have made the wrong headlines again and again.

Such attacks tailed off somewhat after the Good Friday Agreement, but there has been a worrying surge in such incidents in recent years. Between 2013-2017 there were 418 reported incidents, which is an increase of almost 60% in these shootings and assaults.

That is a cause for concern, but it is worrying how these attacks are being regarded almost as a way of life, and sometimes, tragically of life-changing consequences or death in Northern Ireland.

As we have pointed out in this newspaper several times before, if such an attack as that which took place in Ballymoney occurred in other parts of the United Kingdom it would be likely to be in the headlines for a considerable period. That is not so in Northern Ireland where such savage behaviour slips from the headlines far too quickly.

It must be understood that the social scourge of punishment shootings and beatings, which leave scores of people - mainly young men- with dreadful injuries is well beyond the pale for any society with even the slightest pretensions of being civilised.

Darryl Wilson, a UUP councillor in Ballymoney, underlines the sense of shock in the community following the shooting. He said: "It's about time we had a serious look as to why these attacks are happening, and what can be done to prevent further attacks."

The Alliance Party MLA Stewart Dickson echoed those sentiments by saying that "this scourge on our society must be addressed". He is absolutely right but this might be easier said than done.

Part of the trouble is that people think it is someone else's problem, but it is a problem for all of us. Unless more information is supplied to police, and those found guilty receive stern justice, the problem will only get worse.

An inspiring example of the Troubles' unsung heroes

Sometimes there are heart-warming stories arising from the Troubles which inspire us all. 

In the worst of times, the Project Children Program made it possible for many of our children from across the divides to spend a holiday with US families.

Decades later, Jim and Peg O'Donnell from New Jersey have come to Northern Ireland to meet 14 people - all adults with their own families now - whom they hosted as children, and hear about how much their hospitality meant.

Jim and Peg, and many like them, are some of the unsung heroes of our Troubled past, and the fervent hope is that this will never happen again.

Belfast Telegraph

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