Leading article

No place for paramilitary attacks

Stephen Oreilly

THE LATEST figures on assaults thought to have been carried out by paramilitary groups would indicate a decline in such incidents, with some areas in particular apparently seeing marked reductions.

These statistics have received a cautious welcome from the PSNI and from public groups who often deal with the victims of such assaults. A police spokesman said that an apparent improvement in figures for Belfast and in mid and east Antrim was welcome but he went on to say that one such assault was 'one too many'. Alan McBride of the Wave Trauma Centre said that if the figures for Belfast were accurate, it was 'fantastic news'.

It is only prudent that such caution is exercised, such is the unpredictable behaviour of many of the loyalist and dissident republican groupings which indulge in such activities.

For instance one 'feud' involving loyalists has in the past results in dozens of assaults, attacks on homes, property and, at the most serious level, murders and attempted murders. That one incident could easily translate to a major spike in next year's figures.

As Mr McBride pointed out there is no place for such activities in any community. We have a police service and do not need thugs imposing their own brand of 'justice' on the communities in which they exist.

Appealing to these organisations to desist from such attacks has been tried and it has not been successful. What we need as a community is the disappearance of such groupings, be they republican or loyalist.

Anyway, not all the figures released were positive. Strabane and Derry City policing district saw an increase in shootings over the past year. Antrim and Newtownabbey saw the largest increase of paramilitary-style assaults.

There was also an increase in the number of arrests of people under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, up to 181 last year from 127 in the previous 12 months.

This could of course be due to the police being more successful in detection and apprehension. But it is sad for another reason. It means over the past two years just over 300 people could find themselves with a criminal record because they followed the orders of some armchair general or decided to take the law into their own hands.

As a society we have suffered this activity for far too long with too many victims maimed or killed and as Mr McBride pointed out these activities were always counter-productive and had widespread affects on the entire community, not just those attacked.

Rather than relying on interpretation of figures on a yearly basis, it is time that we had no figures to rely on. It is time for these organisations to disappear off the scene. There is no place for them or their methods.

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