Plan to tackle paramilitaries ‘meaningless’ after murder

Colin Horner who was shot dead in Bangor on Sunday. Pacemaker
Colin Horner who was shot dead in Bangor on Sunday. Pacemaker

A plan to tackle paramilitary crime has been rendered “meaningless” in light of recent loyalist murders, David Ford has said.

Commenting following the shooting dead of Colin Horner in Bangor on Sunday, the Alliance MLA and former justice minister said the blame for the plan’s failure lay with the outgoing DUP/Sinn Fein dominated executive.

Mr Horner was attacked by a lone gunman in the car park of Sainsbury’s supermarket.

It is understood the 35-year-old was from Carrickfergus but moved to Bangor amid fears he would be targeted in the same loyalist paramilitary feud that claimed the life of his close friend George Gilmore in Carrick two months ago.

Launching the executive’s Action Plan for Tackling Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime in July 2016, the then first minister, deputy first minister – along with justice minister Claire Sugden – said in a joint statement:

“This document sets out our strategic approach to tackling paramilitarism and organised crime. It includes a series of actions that we will take, in conjunction with local communities, in pursuit of A Fresh Start, and in response to the recommendations made by the Panel, to address the impact of criminality and paramilitarism on our society.”

Mr Ford said he would have refused to “sign it off” had he still been justice minister.

“This is the second time in a matter of months that a man has been gunned down on our streets in broad daylight. It is simply not good enough to reference an executive ‘action plan’ which is totally flawed and has been consistently undermined,” he said.

“The blame for the current situation fundamentally lies with the outgoing executive DUP, Sinn Fein, and independent unionist – which failed to give leadership or stand up to a culture of lawfulness.”

Mr Ford added: “Alliance is clear: if we are to be serious about tackling and eradicating paramilitarism from our society, and promoting a culture of lawfulness, we need a strong functioning executive. But it must be an executive that stops pretending all is well and addresses the underlying issues and context that paramilitaries still continue to exploit.”

Sinn Fein announced yesterday that leader Michelle O’Neill has requested an urgent meeting with PSNI chief constable George Hamilton to discuss “recent murder and ongoing UDA criminality.”

Meanwhile, the partner of Colin Horner – Tasha Oscar – has vented her anger at his killer on Facebook, saying the gunman should have “dropped the gun and fought like a man”.