Paramilitary-style beatings up 13% – but thugs take a break over Christmas

Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered by a republican gunman in Londonderry last year
Journalist Lyra McKee was murdered by a republican gunman in Londonderry last year
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Paramilitary-style attacks are up 13% so far this year, but the festive ‘good news’ is that terror gangs normally commit much less thuggery over Christmas, an academic says.

Liam Kennedy, professor of history at Queen’s University Belfast, was speaking after the PSNI released figures to the News Letter under the Freedom of Information Act.

They show that over the last year, NI had 125 shootings, bombings and paramilitary-style attacks, with 13 classed as attempted murder and one as murder.

But while the vast majority were classed as “investigation complete” only five suspects were charged.

Prof Kennedy said: “You might have missed it from party political broadcasts but Northern Irish society is still feeling the heat of the paramilitary presence.”

He added: “The PSNI has marked most of these cases as ‘investigation complete’, but it is not clear how many are resulting in prosecution, which is what most people would really like to know.

“On past experience, virtually all paramilitary-style attacks will not even result in an arrest.”

The first 11 months of this year are already up 13% on the previous 12 in relation to paramilitary-style attacks, he said.

“The one tiny silver lining, though hardly a Santa Claus factor, is that paramilitaries tend to be less active during the month of Christmas.”

UUP justice spokesman Doug Beattie said that 21 years on from the Belfast Agreement, it is “totally unacceptable” that there should be 125 such incidents in a year.

“We must never get to the situation whereby we as a society are prepared to accept a certain level of violence,” he said.

“Neither should we allow certain political parties to give violence cover by using Brexit as an excuse.” He also called for an end to the “expensive nonsense” of a separated prison regime for terrorists.

Police Federation chair Mark Lindsay said that the figures underline the “severe” terrorist threat level his members have faced daily for a decade.

He urged communities to assist in bringing terrorists to justice and “deliver lasting peace”. And he said the case for 800 additional officers and increased resources is “beyond question”.

“We would ask all political parties on this, the eve of the election, to commit themselves to fighting for those badly needed resources,” he added.

Blogger Jamie Bryson said loyalists clearly support accredited restorative justice schemes, but that he found it “interesting” the PSNI released the figures only days before an election.

Last month the PSNI reaffirmed that the IRA Army Council oversees Sinn Fein and that the remaining structures of the terror group still engage in “isolated violence”, including murder.