The criminal justice system must take on dissident thuggery

Parts of Lurgan are among the most troubled places in Northern Ireland.
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There are areas where support for dissident republicans is alarmingly high.

As in all such areas in Northern Ireland, thuggery is commonplace from riots at the least provocation to, on occasion, murder (albeit the latter is still rare).

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It is worth recapping on something that happened in 2012 that illustrates the apparent reluctance that the authorities feel at the prospect of confronting dissident rioting thugs.

On July 12 of that year, in the Ardoyne, the Parades Commission issued a ridiculous ruling to accommodate a manufactured and provocative dissident republican parade on the key day of the marching calendar. Orangemen were unable to return from the Field by foot and comply with the ruling but did somersaults to comply with the side of the ruling that applied to them and were bussed to the Ardoyne.

Furious that there had not been a full ban, dissidents rioted wildly. The following year they were granted the full Orange ban that their violence had demanded. Since then, there has been a permanent accommodation of Ardoyne dissident republicans, in much the same way that there has been a permanent accommodation of dissidents on the Garvaghy Road.

There is no shortage of dissidents in Lurgan.

It is important that they are not also led to believe that they can get away with whatever they want through violence, and turn the town – which has a fine history but has suffered badly in the decades since the Troubles flared up – into a playground for dissidents.

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Arlene Foster got the tone entirely right when she said yesterday in relation to violent and masked men: “I want to see these people behind bars.”

The criminal justice system got tough with loyalist flag protesters. If they behaved thuggishly, that was the right thing to do.

Now it must urgently get tough with dissidents too.