Belfast Telegraph

PSNI can be proud of its war on gangsters

Editor's Viewpoint

Nearly 20 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the paramilitary ceasefires, it really is a case that the terror gangs have not gone away.

That will not come as any great surprise in areas where dissident republicans and loyalist gangs still hold sway. The people living in those areas know that the paramilitaries continue to leech off those communities and enforce their will through terror or the threat of it.

A common complaint in recent years as Northern Ireland attempts to move away from its legacy of violence is that the police and intelligence services are not doing enough to disrupt the paramilitaries.

That is why the first update of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board makes encouraging reading. It shows that there is a determination by the PSNI, National Crime Agency and HMRC to tackle the activities of the gangsters.

The impressive statistics including just under 100 arrests, 200 searches, £450,000 of criminal assets seized and a number of guns and quantity of ammunition and pipe bombs uncovered reveal a concerted effort by the authorities to disrupt the criminal activities.

But what they also reveal is the extent of paramilitary activity in the province long after most of us had hoped that these gangs would have left the stage.

They have gone from quasi-political terrorists to outright gangsters, and deserve to be treated as such.

The PSNI can also feel satisfied with the survey, which shows that the force commands widespread respect in the community.

While it faces difficulty with a diminished budget and workforce, the PSNI has managed to increase its standing among both Protestants and Catholics, and that is no mean feat.

It had something of a baptism of fire with dissident republicans using the old tactic of targeting and killing Catholic members in a bid to make the force appear partisan if Catholic recruitment slowed down or dried up.

Instead, the PSNI has gone about its task of enforcing law and order in all areas with an even hand and that has been recognised by all shades of opinion in the community.

The PSNI's work to bring normality to the streets of Northern Ireland stands in stark contrast to the toxic influence of paramilitaries. The force deserves every assistance in ridding us of this malign cancer in our society.

Belfast Telegraph

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