Muir says there remains a lack of political leadership around dealing with paramilitarism

Alliance Councillor Andrew Muir has said there is a lack of political leadership around dealing with paramilitarism and its trappings.

The North Down representative was speaking after BBC’s Spotlight programme yesterday (Tuesday) which revealed mediation had been encouraged between local paramilitaries and community groups in an attempt to end disputes over the display of illegal flags.

Mr Muir said engagement with legacy paramilitaries must be about removing them from existence and normalising society.

“Paramilitarism continues to be a stain on our society. Those who treat it with a nod and a wink instead of the contempt it deserves call into question not only the entire political process but democracy itself. When you prioritise the short-term threat to public order over the long-term threat to the rule of law, you play into the hands of those threatening violence over a community.

“We need an Executive strategy to provide direction for Government agencies and police to help achieve the long overdue disbandment of paramilitary organisations. The focus needs to be put on challenging criminal behaviour such as violence, intimidation and extortion.

“Last summer, I spoke out against illegal flags being erected throughout North Down and beyond, and was met with deafening silence from other political parties. That lack of political leadership around issues such as flags and bonfires is not good enough. The message needs to go out from all – there is no place for paramilitarism or its glorification in a new and shared Northern Ireland.”

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