Belfast Telegraph

Jim McDowell: Time godfathers of crime gangs were put in jail where they belong

By Jim McDowell

There's a buzzword fluttering around the whole Brexit debate.

The word is 'unicorn'. That Theresa May going back to ask the EU to change the deal is fantasy.

And like the unicorn, which never existed, it cannot therefore be grasped, or obtained, in real terms.

But then, turn that phrase around, from the 'p' word of politics to the unicorn factor of our own country, Northern Ireland, where both politicians and the police have now grappled with the problem of paramilitaries over the past half-century.

Both have been hung up on the unicorn's horn of a dilemma. How do you deal with the dregs of the terrorist gangs? Ostracise and extricate them and put them in jail where they belong?

The fact, rather than the fantasy, is that the forces of law and order have not been good at trying to grapple with the reality of the gangster gangs which have their Mafia-like grip on the throats of society, and our working class and non-working class communities, what are called 'areas of deprivation', in particular. It is here that fear, and illegally-gotten finance - with its fast cars, flash women, flush wallets - still run their writ.

And it is in that respect that the police face a form of paralysis. They know, and know how, the key players, the Godfathers of crime, operate, but their prime problem is collecting the evidence to put them under lock and key. Behind bars. And this is where I get really angry.

We still have the figureheads of still illegal organisations strutting our streets, on both the loyalist and republican sides.

We all know who they are, but they still run their criminal empires seemingly impervious to the rule of law.

Especially, as a prime example, on the streets of east Belfast, on the turf of the (still illegal) UVF (however, it tries to wash their hands of it) where the latest bloody butchery of Ian Ogle occurred.

Or in west Belfast, where the dissidents sentence people to die, also with seeming impunity.

So, having covered and tried to expose all these gangster organisations over all these years, I want to strike a new angle on all of this.

And it is this: what is the National Crime Agency (NCA), Britain's equivalent of America's FBI, doing sitting in Northern Ireland? At Palace Barracks, for God's sake? Just a couple of miles down the road from where the most renowned so-called 'loyalist' gangster runs his east Belfast mob.

Why isn't the NCA out there, in there, digging out the real godfathers of crime? On their own doorstep? On OUR own doorsteps.

If our own police force is constrained by the unavailability, or unattainability, of hard evidence, the NCA should be out there: in there.

Otherwise, what is the point of their existence?

It's time they did their job. Especially here in Northern Ireland where the paramilitaries have been able to get away with so much for so long.

The PSNI may be stuck on the unicorn's horn of procuring and producing evidential veracity in court.

The NCA have deeper, and different, methods of putting drugs dealers, extortionists, Mafia-like criminals - and killers, and those who sanction them - in the dock.

It is a statistical given that Northern Ireland has, per head of population, more criminal gangs than any other region of the United Kingdom.

So just do it.

Because if you don't - and as you're paid by us, the public, out of the public purse, and that, per se, you are servants of us, the public - sitting down there in your HQ in Holywood, you may well deserve another interpretation of those NCA initials.

The National Crass Agency… or another middle word to that effect.

Belfast Telegraph

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