‘Violence will fill vacuum in absence of process’

PARAMILITARY violence will inevitably fill the vacuum if political talks do not get under way again soon, Alliance Councillor Geraldine Rice has said.

Cllr Rice was speaking after it was revealed that were 54 shootings and 34 assaults up to the end of April. Loyalists carried out 32 of the shootings and 24 of the assaults, while republicans were responsible for 22 of the shootings and eight assaults.

Cllr Rice, who had been due to stand in the postponed Assembly election, said: “Five years after the signing of the Agreement, the violence that we expected to have petered out still continues. While shootings and beatings may be at a lower level than before Good Friday 1998, the fact that they are still going on is a major cause for concern.

“In fact, it is so significant, that the inability of the IRA to give up the gun was the main reason the elections were postponed. That in no way excuses loyalists, who last year carried out around twice as many shootings as republicans. Their campaign of terror has been a major concern to the community, particularly as we enter another marching season.

“The paramilitaries who once claimed to be the defenders of their communities have now turned on them, as most loyalist victims are Protestants and most republican victims Catholics.

“The people wants peace, plain and simple, but that requires several important ingredients – a political process that is going forward and not stagnant, a properly resourced police service with officers on the ground and public support for the police.

“That doesn’t just mean respecting the law. It means actively doing what you can to help the police, such as reporting paramilitary and ordinary crime and suspicious activity.

“The PSNI are the only force of law and order in Northern Ireland, and the only way that the influence of paramilitaries can be diminished is if there is a strong partnership between the police and every community here.

“Violence thrives on instability and uncertainty, so it is equally important that all our political leaders work together to resolve their differences and get the institutions back up and running.”

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