A new hard-hitting campaign which aims to highlight the brutal reality of so-called paramilitary-style attacks has been launched today.
‘Ending The Harm’, which is part of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme, is aimed at highlighting the devastating impact of paramilitary-style attacks on victims, their families, local communities and wider society.
It tells the story of a paramilitary-style shooting from the points of view of the four people involved: the victim, his mother, the paramilitary gang member and a witness.
The campaign material, which will go live after 9pm tonight (Tuesday 16 October), also includes radio adverts from the same points of view and a poster of a badly beaten man to reflect the fact that such attacks also include serious assaults.
The call to action is to visit a bespoke campaign website – www.endingtheharm.com (which goes live at 9pm this evening) – to get the full story. The website will also have a number of sections including some real-life stories and information on where people can go for help and support.
Speaking at today’s launch, Anthony Harbinson, Chair of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board, said: “In 2017/2018, 87 people were victims of paramilitary-style attacks. That’s 22 people who were shot; and 65 people who were assaulted over a 12 month period. Indeed, in the last five years, 417 people have endured these barbaric shootings and beatings.
“The reality is that the perpetrators of these attacks don’t care about people, or justice, or solving social problems. They are only interested in exerting control and exploiting people for their own gain.
“They don’t offer protection; their sole aim is to terrorise and control, and they use shootings, beatings, drug dealing, intimidation, and protection rackets as their weapons.
“We are launching this campaign because the toll these attacks take on our society cannot be ignored.
“It is time to call out this activity, and that is what we aim to do. We are adding to the voices of those who have been speaking out on this issue for some time now and have been highlighting the injustice and barbarity of such attacks, and the devastating reality that lies behind each one.”
Today’s launch event included a panel discussion on the issue. The panel members were: Anthony Harbinson, Chair of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Board; Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray from PSNI; Sean Holland from Department of Health; Koulla Yiasouma, NI Commissioner for Children and Young People; Arlene Key from the Education Authority; and Paul Smyth from the StopAttacks forum.
The Ending the Harm campaign is part of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme which is a series of 38 commitments from the Northern Ireland Executive aimed at tackling paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime.
It involves government departments, law enforcement agencies, local councils and community and voluntary sectors working together. The focus is on robust law enforcement, implementing long term prevention measures, addressing social issues that affect communities and building confidence in the justice system.
‘Ending the Harm’ is being promoted by the Department of Justice, the PSNI and others.
Speaking about the campaign, the PSNI’s lead for Paramilitary Style Attacks, Detective Chief Superintendent Raymond Murray said: “This campaign highlights the devastating impact that paramilitary style attacks have, not just on victims, but their families, local community and wider society. The people who carry out these attacks are reckless, giving little thought about the trauma they are causing to people living in the area witnessing these barbaric acts of violence.
“Paramilitaries don’t carry out these attacks to protect communities. Instead, they do it to exert fear and control communities for their own selfish gains. These hypocrites acting as judge, jury and, in some instances, executioner do not represent the interests of any community.
“Contrary to the perpetrators’ rhetoric, not all of their victims have been involved in criminality. When criminality occurs within communities, the Police Service of Northern Ireland is the only legitimate provider of law and order.”
He added: “My message is simple. Policing works for communities, particularly for those communities that engage and work with us. Ultimately we all have a role to play in creating a safer society and ending the harm caused by paramilitary-style attacks.”
Log on to www.endingtheharm.com (after 9pm tonight) for more information, real-life stories and details of where to go for help and support.