Former top PSNI officer: Paramilitaries are undermining rule of law and democracy’

A former head of the PSNI Organised Crime Branch says paramilitaries are still posing a “significant” risk to the public and has slammed their continued acceptance as public figures in NI as a key problem that is undermining democracy and the rule of law.

Friday, 27th August 2021, 9:56 am
Updated Friday, 27th August 2021, 10:10 am
Former Detective Chief Superintendent Roy McComb: Photo: Paul Faith/PA Wire

Ex-Det Chief Supt Roy McComb, who is also a former deputy director of the National Crime Agency, is now a private consultant on organised crime and terrorism for the UN, the Foreign Office and The EU Agency for Law Enforcement Training.

In yesterday’s News Letter he highlighted how eastern European crime gangs are steadily rising in influence across NI. Today he says the threat posed by paramilitaries to NI is still “significant”.

“Do the paramilitaries of today have the ability to wage a war by comparison to UVF and PIRA of the 1970s and 80s?” he asked. “Probably not – but they still pose a serious threat to people in Northern Ireland.

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“It gets even more complex when you understand that both republicans and loyalists are involved in organised crime.

“So the threat they pose isn’t one of obvious terrorist activity. They have morphed from being an overtly terrorist group to being a terrorist group that are involved in organised crime, and in that sense they pose a significant risk to the people of Northern Ireland.

“I say that in the context of counterfeit goods that are being sold, the drugs being made available, the undermining of confidence in law enforcement because of organised crime activities, and the scale and willingness of money laundering to be undertaken.

“So in that sense organised crime should be given greater standing and priority for both government and law enforcement.”

Asked if paramilitaries are impacting on the rule of law and democracy he is unequivocal.

“Yes they are, because they are given voices, they are invited to meetings, they are given opportunities to comment, they are presented as if they are spokespeople for communities when in fact everybody knows that they are leaders and representatives of paramilitary groups.

“They should be reviled for what they are – namely, they are organised criminals wrapped in a flag of convenience. There is active criminality in both republican communities and loyalist communities that are masquerading as people that are supposedly involved in the communities. There are people who hide behind the banner of the tricolour or Ulster flag in order to make money through organised crime.”

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