Those who break the law must be held accountable: Rice [South Belfast News]

I have been saddened by the spate of crime and violence of recent weeks.

Each incident brings its own sorrow. Like the murder of a boy, returning from buying sweets. Or the repeated rape of a girl, out with her friends.

Then there’s the loyalist feud, with the UVF attempting to exterminate the LVF.

Some may take misleading comfort from the fact that, in some areas, there are less torture beatings or large explosions, and that life is better when compared to the worst days of the ‘Troubles’.

But sectarianism, hatred of difference, and fear of diversity or change is still alive and kicking in our communities. The blame game is still played out, the police are still ‘piggy in the middle’, and fear and vulnerability is everywhere.

We still persist in labelling each other ‘Catholic’ or ‘Protestant’, ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’, ‘loyalist’ or ‘republican’, even when we are talking about those whose lives have been taken. This is disturbing, in that it gives the impression that if we label victims, then it’s okay if it was ‘them’ instead of ‘us’.

For example, in a recent incident in Belfast, a politician said he wanted to wait for more information before commenting. As if it had to be: (a) sectarian and (b) blameable on the ‘other side’ to be worthy of remark.

A crime is a crime. What is wrong is wrong.

The murder by a UVF paramilitary of an LVF rival is just that — murder. For anyone to try to explain it otherwise mocks the rule of law and will turn us into a mafia state.

It is depressing to see that this fact is not being recognised by our so-called political leaders.

All politicians, right across the political spectrum, need to show true leadership, and demonstrate that all sectarianism is wrong, all hatred is wrong. If politicians continue to defend and use language that can be misinterpreted and misued by ‘the other side’, then they are hindering the elimination of hatred and anguish that plagues us.

We must act, each of us, in ways to ensure that those who murder, rob, rape, intimidate, engage in drug trafficking or cause mayhem in our streets are stopped. This means speaking out, without qualification, against all such acts, providing adequate policing resources, and pushing for more convictions.

It is up to us to not accept the perception that crime [does] pay.

It is time for real co-operation, to come together at all levels, so that those who break the law in any way are held accountable.

We need to use all the energies previously spent on blaming and condemning others, for a common purpose of lawfulness and a genuinely shared society, where all can enjoy peace, stability and opportunity.

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