Belfast Telegraph

Alban Maginness: Why Ian Ogle's brutal murder means time is finally running out for the UVF's reign of terror

Aftermath of savage killing provides timely opportunity to tackle loyalist criminality, says Alban Maginness

The savage murder of Ian Ogle near his home in Cluan Place has shocked many people throughout Belfast, not least those living in the east of the city. While there is some confusion as to whether the killing was officially sanctioned by the UVF, his grieving family have little doubt that it was involved.

It is only the degree of the involvement that is in question, but not its active participation in the slaying.

The PSNI has carefully stated that one line of enquiry is that he was murdered by members of the east Belfast UVF.

A so-called "official condemnation" of his murder by it has, rightly, failed to deflect suspicion from the terrorist group itself.

The police investigation has been immediate, thorough and vigorous, involving 12 arrests to date as well as 14 searches and the scrutinising of 70 hours of CCTV footage.

Mr Ogle's courageous daughter Toni Johnston-Ogle is in no doubt about UVF involvement and has described how her family endured 18 months of intimidation culminating in the brutal stabbing of her father outside his home by five men.

Her media appearances have been impressive, forthright and exceptionally brave.

She has explained how this campaign of intimidation arose over accusations that her brother had given a dirty look to someone she believed to be a member of the UVF in a local bar. She has declared that east Belfast is "at a turning-point - it's changed".

"I think that people will rise up, I don't think the community is going to forgive them, ever. It's been exposed how bad everything actually was," she said.

Last Wednesday, in support of the family and to publicly condemn the murder, nearly 2,000 people attended a vigil on the Albertbridge Road, beside Cluan Place.

This massive display of public support was a great encouragement to the family and to ordinary people living in the area, who have had to put up with a constant paramilitary presence in their neighbourhoods for years.

Given the horrendous nature of this killing and the profound outcry that it has evoked, there is now a real opportunity to tackle the scourge of paramilitarism that has blighted east Belfast and other loyalist areas for too many years.

It cannot be right that, 25 years after the loyalist paramilitary ceasefires in 1994 , the UVF is still an active player in working-class loyalist areas of Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland.

What justification can there be for any active paramilitary organisation to continue to exist? Their involvement in criminality, such as drug dealing, loan-sharking and protection rackets, is well-known and has had a destructive impact on the development of many impoverished working-class communities.

Their continued existence in those communities undermines the good work often carried out by genuine community groups and public agencies, who are attempting to improve the lives of people living in those areas. The grip that the UVF has on these communities - and in particular young people - is alarming.

Apart from a rigorous police initiative to tackle the UVF where it hurts, namely the seizure of its money and resources, there needs to be a proactive campaign to shut down this organisation, which adds nothing to the lives of the ordinary people that it dominates.

There is also a serious challenge for unionist politicians, who have been dreadfully weak in dealing with the continued existence of the UVF.

They should be adopting, at a local level, a zero-tolerance approach to known members of this pernicious criminal organisation.

There no longer can be any association with, or tolerance of, this paramilitary organisation. Nor should there be further public funding of community organisations that are infiltrated by the UVF.

A concerted campaign to remove all paramilitary murals that are a frequent presence in parts of east Belfast should be initiated. These murals, by their very public presence, legitimise the UVF.

They also indoctrinate young people into accepting the legitimacy of paramilitarism, creating a culture of acceptance. In no other jurisdiction in these islands would such outrageous paramilitary displays be officially tolerated.

In an imaginative step in the right direction, the PSNI only a few days ago placed an anti-paramilitary billboard in front of a UVF mural on the Newtownards Road. More initiatives like these are needed.

But it is only when the state acts decisively against the UVF that ordinary citizens will feel confident enough to assert themselves and actively reject its sinister presence in their neighbourhoods.

The aftermath of this terrible killing provides a unique opportunity to act decisively against the UVF.

Time has finally run out for this criminal terrorist organisation.

Belfast Telegraph

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