Belfast Telegraph

Ciaran Barnes: PSNI chief Byrne's heart in right place but naive in extreme on paramilitary task

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Ciaran Barnes

By Ciaran Barnes

If Chief Constable Simon Byrne believes the PSNI is going to “dismantle” paramilitary organisations and take on the ‘Mr Bigs’ of violent terror gangs he is being naive in the extreme.

Listening to his BBC Radio Ulster interview with Stephen Nolan earlier it was clear that his heart is in the right place.

Mr Byrne rightly threatened to jail the leaders of republicanism and loyalism who are stilled wedded to murder, drug dealing and extortion 25 years into our supposed peace process.

These are good intentions, but ones which in reality are impossible to implement with the PSNI and government partly to blame.

Police chiefs regularly sit down for tea, biscuits and cosy chats with these so-called ‘Mr Bigs’, who they know masquerade as community workers by day, but transform into paramilitaries by night.

This takes place while government agencies throw public cash at their pet projects – a scandal best highlighted by the recent Social Investment Fund (SIF) audit.

If the PSNI is really serious about dismantling paramilitary groups then ending this comfy relationship needs to be the first step.

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Funders need to wise up too and pull the plug on the millions of pounds being pumped into organisations linked to active terror gangs.

Earlier this year the UVF murdered loyalists Ian Ogle and Davy Murphy in the space of four weeks.

A £400,000 government grant to its ex-prisoners group EPIC was not affected despite the gang publicly admitting responsibility for the Ogle killing.

Ditto the INLA. Its Teach na Failte group recently raked in £400,000 from a £1.4m European Union Peace IV pie – cash that was not rescinded despite the INLA shooting Decky Collins and putting on a huge show of strength at a west Belfast funeral.

Paramilitaries are, quite literally, laughing all the way to the bank, and to hear a Chief Constable repeat the same worthwhile and unfulfilled vows made repeatedly by his predecessors will not have them quaking in their boots.

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