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Editorial: Scourge of paramilitarism

THE spectre of paramilitarism has returned to our streets over the last week in the form of disgraceful acts of intimidation by both loyalists and republicans.

In Co Antrim, scenes emerged of masked men targeting a family in Carrickfergus.

Footage showing more than a dozen people gathering outside a house was widely shared on social media.

The paramilitary-style show of strength has been linked to the UVF and reportedly followed an incident involving teenage girls.

Police have confirmed they received a report of people outside a property last Thursday evening but said that when they arrived on the scene, everything was calm.

The video has sparked serious concern among political representatives and raised questions about whether police and other authorities are doing enough to crack down on paramilitary activity.

The weekend also saw an attack on a home in Co Tyrone by the New IRA.

The dissident republican group said it was responsible for firing shots at a house in Ardboe on Sunday, causing damage to windows at the front and rear.

Thankfully the property was empty and no-one was injured.

However, there is no doubt lives are put at risk and it was reckless in the extreme to bring guns into a built-up area.

A threat against the occupants to leave the area is also to be roundly condemned.

In relation to the wider dissident republican threat, security services have had success in acting against the New IRA and other groupings, with attacks having thankfully decreased in recent years.

Loyalist paramilitary activity and associated criminality meanwhile remains an issue of great concern.

In the Carrickfergus area alone, loyalist groups have been linked to a series of murders as well as racketeering, drug dealing and intimidation.

The PSNI has promised an increased presence in the town and insists it is committed to tackling paramilitary criminality, something it says requires the support of partners including local communities.

But it must be a cause for alarm that a group of masked men feels confident enough to engage in a public show of strength in a blatant act of intimidation.

Almost a quarter of a century since the Good Friday Agreement, it is a matter of deep regret that such organisations remain in existence and continue to exert their malign influence on communities.

All possible efforts must be made to track down those involved in the latest incidents to send out a message that such behaviour will not be tolerated.

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