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Northern Ireland Assembly

23 January 2001 (continued)

Mr A Maginness:

Punishment shootings and beatings are a huge problem for our society. According to calculations, 2,303 people have been shot in punishment attacks since 1973, and 1,626 people have been beaten in such attacks since 1982. These quotes are an underestimation of the actual figures rather than an accurate record of the number of these attacks - we do have a huge problem.

Dr Ian Paisley has blamed the Good Friday Agreement for punishment attacks, while Ms Gildernew has blamed the RUC. However, in truth, we have an unstable society, in which paramilitaries have grown up and in which they have chosen to exercise political control and to carry out so-called policing of their areas through the medium of punishment attacks. All right-thinking people in the Chamber must condemn this. I am disappointed that some Members who have spoken did not forthrightly condemned these attacks.

The Good Friday Agreement gives us an opportunity to put an end to these attacks once and for all. It does so by providing the right political context in which to provide political stability and a system of government in which there is respect for both political traditions. Within that stable system, we can attack the very roots of paramilitarism, which have cursed and bedevilled our society.

We have tried, in the context of the Good Friday Agreement, to create a human rights culture, and we will continue to do so. As Mr Beggs said, these attacks offend the European Convention on Human Rights because they contravene the right to life, the prohibition on torture, the right to liberty and security and the right to a fair trial.

The prohibition on torture is not being adhered to, in any way, by paramilitary organisations which continue, through their actions, to torture and degrade ordinary citizens in our society.

This report usefully highlights the whole issue of punishment beatings and shootings. It also criticises the statutory agencies, including the Housing Executive, the Social Security Agency and the Compensation Agency. Those criticisms remain unfounded, but I am certain that the Northern Ireland Executive are prepared to investigate them in a serious and considerate fashion and to respond to them in a fair and just manner.

Therefore we cannot support the latter part of Dr Paisley's motion. While supporting the first part of it, which condemns paramilitary violence and punishment beatings and shootings, we cannot support the implicit criticism of the Northern Ireland Administration, which has not yet responded to the very criticisms highlighted in this report.

I am certain that the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, the Administration and those Ministers who have responsibility for those institutions - such as the Minister for Social Development, who is in charge of the Housing Executive and the Social Security Agency - will attempt to respond to those criticisms.

My party supports the amendment. Of course, a system of policing which is acceptable and accountable to both communities will serve effectively to diminish the level of punishment attacks in our community.

However, it cannot do that by itself. We need a collective commitment by everyone in our society to respect one another's political cultures and, in particular, civil and human rights. We will be unable to deal with this problem if we do not respect those rights. Therefore, while we support the amendment, we do not regard it as being completely able to tackle the problem of punishment attacks.

Mr Boyd:

Regrettably, shootings and beatings by paramilitary organisations are a daily occurrence, particularly since the signing of the Belfast Agreement. They are carried out primarily by pro-agreement paramilitaries. On 14 May 1998 the Prime Minister said that the ceasefires were indeed complete and unequivocal and that there would be the dismantling of paramilitary structures actively directing and promoting violence. On 19 November 1999 the Belfast High Court ruled that murders carried out by the Provisional IRA in its own community did not break its ceasefire, thereby providing a green light for ongoing paramilitary activity. As stated in the Economic and Social Research Council report produced by Prof Colin Knox and Dr Rachel Monaghan,

"The Mitchell principles of 'democracy and non-violence', to which all constitutional political parties subscribe, have been compromised in the interests of moving forward politically."

Paramilitaries have some sort of warped logic, which is, sadly, endorsed by the Government, which says that there is a difference between so-called military operations and the other barbarities that they exact on their communities. It is a terrible indictment on the Government that they are described as having a "See no evil, hear no evil" attitude to paramilitary violence.

The breakdown in law and order is a direct result of the Belfast Agreement and its appeasement of terrorism. Paramilitary organisations have been strengthened by the release of their leading activists, funding of £6 million provided by the European Union and the UK Government and the elevation of their inextricably linked parties into the centre of the political process. Plush new community offices have been provided for ex-prisoners, giving a centre for paramilitaries in the heart of some working-class areas.

Today, paramilitary organisations are structurally and financially stronger than ever. Armed and masked robberies, racketeering and extortion are a daily occurrence. Building contractors, retail shops and businesses, particularly in working-class areas, are literally being held to ransom. There have been 14 armed robberies in the last four weeks in Newtownabbey alone. The latest was at an off-licence in Glengormley last night. Armed robberies have more than doubled in Newtownabbey in the past two years and have increased considerably throughout Northern Ireland.

The Ulster Unionist Party leader, David Trimble, said in his 1998 election manifesto that paramilitary organisations must dismantle, disarm and stop the beatings, and that the Ulster Unionist Party would hold Mr Blair to his promises and would not sit in the Government of Northern Ireland with unreconstructed terrorists. Other parties gave similar commitments, yet we see the election of persons belonging to parties inextricably linked to paramilitary organisations to civic offices in Fermanagh, Belfast, Londonderry, Newtownabbey and elsewhere, with the assistance of votes from other political parties. We need more than just words of condemnation from all democrats.

The report states that paramilitaries set themselves up as the police for their own areas. The ongoing demands from Nationalists for the disbandment of the RUC and the scaling down of policing resources by a weak Government have resulted in the strengthening of the paramilitaries' grip in many communities and the rule of law being compromised. The report says

"Those individuals 'punished' by paramilitaries are denied 'due process' and the beatings and the shootings meted out are becoming more vicious and prolonged."

The statistics provided in the report are shocking. On average, there have been 85 so-called punishment shootings and 90 beatings per year since 1973. However, these figures are underestimated by 50%, because many attacks are unreported due to victims' fears. The report also says that there is no information available on charges brought against the perpetrators. However, detection rates are described as "relatively low". The figures show a significant increase in beatings and an increasing trend in the numbers of exiles since the so-called ceasefires of 1994. Exiling is a method paramilitaries use to exact their form of justice without the same outcry from the community that beatings and shootings cause.

Most beatings happen to young males who are in their twenties. Twenty-five per cent of those attacked are under 20 years old. Kids as young as 13 and 14 have been attacked.

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One victim named in the report is Ian Price. He was a 13-year-old boy who was singled out from a group of friends by masked men, flung to the ground and beaten with baseball bats studded with nails. He suffered a shattered elbow, broken fingers, deep puncture wounds to his legs, cuts and multiple bruising. After the attack, a gun was put to his head and he was ordered out of the country. He was a 13-year-old boy. Yet, we have those parties that are inextricably linked to paramilitary organisations referring to the rights of children and calling for the appointment of a commissioner for children.

IRA/Sinn Féin have consistently refused to call on the community to assist the police in apprehending those responsible for horrific crimes, even those against their own people - for example, the recent deaths on the Antrim Road, Belfast, of a mother and daughter due to youths in a stolen car.

I support the motion.

Mr B Hutchinson:

It ceases to amaze me that some people who have read this report seem to have selective amnesia. They select pieces of the report - not all of it.

We need to end punishment beatings and shootings and we need to find a way forward. Unfortunately, Members have not used this opportunity to discuss how we could do that. We do not have time to wait for a new policing service. It needs to happen now.

As a number of Members have said, we are brutalising our society and our young people. However, this issue needs a society and a community response. There are people who are carrying out so-called antisocial behaviour, but there are also people in the community who are reporting others for such behaviour and asking for something to be done. We need to change attitudes, and we need to change how we deal with this issue. I would like us to focus on some of the ways forward.

Some Members have said that the solution needs to be connected to the justice system. Of course it does. However, there are already programmes in place that are supported by the police and statutory agencies and which are not about beating young people or anyone else.

This is about trying to find a way forward and about changing attitudes. Attitudes will not be changed overnight - it takes years. All of us will have to suffer what happens until we do change those attitudes. People should not lift a gun or beat others with a baseball bat. We need to find other ways forward. We can all make excuses for why punishment beatings happen, or do not happen, but the only way that we are going to prevent them is by coming up with alternatives.

As regards the report's accuracy, I have heard Members in the past supporting Vincent McKenna - a bastion of veracity, as we all know - who we found out had fabricated statistics and told us all that people were doing things when they were not. We need to be careful about how these reports are compiled.

We have all seen statistics and we know that there are

"lies, damned lies and statistics."

We need to be careful. It does not matter whether one person or 101 people have been punished in the last 27 years. The point is that it happened. We need to be asking "How do we move into the future? How do we find ways forward?" Those are the questions we need to ask. That is what this is about.

This House is in place to bring change to Northern Ireland. We all want democracy to work whether we are anti-agreement or pro-agreement, and if this House can provide a lead, that is what we must do. I do not make excuses about the RUC. In November 1994 I said that people who have information about those who carried out antisocial behaviour should report it to the RUC. I repeat that today, but we need to ask whether the people in our communities or in society generally want justice or revenge. That is another important question. We need to respond positively and with no violence as regards antisocial behaviour in our communities.

How many Members have constituency offices in which we hear people pleading with us about the behaviour of some people outside their homes? We all report such things to the police and they say that they can do nothing, as those people are not breaking the law. That is the problem. Is this about justice or is it about revenge? Those issues need to be tackled, but that will not be done in four minutes, five minutes or two hours in the Assembly.

I congratulate Dr Ian Paisley for tabling the motion. However, Members need to have a proper debate about punishment beatings. It must be decided whether we make the issue a Committee's responsibility or form an Ad Hoc Committee to look at the findings of the research project and examine other matters. Members must be positive. Let us bring forward a report that will tell us how to get out of this mess.

Ms McWilliams:

I would like to put the research project into the context of the 20 other research projects that were carried out simultaneously by the Economic and Social Research Council. It initiated large-scale funding throughout the United Kingdom for a variety of projects. The project titles were "Violence" and "Research on Violence". All the research projects concluded that predatory violence is less extensive than violence from people known to the victim. Unfortunately, the research project does not state whether the victims knew the perpetrators.

However, the research project does document the levels of punishment beatings. That had not been done to date, and it is extremely important. I agree with that part of the report, and it is hoped that from now on accident and emergency departments and the Housing Executive will keep a rigorous database - unlike that kept by Vincent McKenna and others in the past. That is a very helpful recommendation.

The research project has not fulfilled its terms of reference regarding the assessment of possible strategies for prevention and reduction. It is not sufficient for a research project to describe what organisations have not done and to suggest that there has been a level of indifference and minimisation. If we are to take this forward we need to flag up a number of things that have happened. That is why, reluctantly, I cannot support the motion.

I do not support the amendment. Sinn Féin Members should know from the research carried out in South Africa by Rachel Monaghan, the co-author of the report with Colin Knox, that reforming the police there did not stop punishment beatings or antisocial behaviour. Therefore, to support the amendment or the motion is insufficient.

The research project is overly critical of a number of organisations that have tried against the odds to put alternative strategies in place. The Probation Board for Northern Ireland has a range of programmes in place to tackle youths offending. Its "Youth at Risk" project in west Belfast, the Short Strand and east Belfast, extended now to north Belfast and Omagh, is working, and Members ought to be supporting that.

The research project states that the issue can only be tackled when community groups sit down in partnership and adopt an inter-agency, integrated approach.

Some Members may think that south Belfast is an affluent area, but it is worth noting that yesterday, for the third time in less than three months, my constituency office was robbed. Before Christmas the office was broken into by a heroin addict; yesterday people coming off the street in broad daylight robbed it. I and others were in the office. Crime among young people is certainly increasing.

The response of my constituency office on these occasions has been to contact the police, and that is the only way forward when dealing with crime. The individual who broke into the office before Christmas was eventually apprehended and brought before the courts. We must continue to make that the process of decent law and order and to follow the systems of justice that exist.

That is not to say that other bodies should not be given more legal powers. The Housing Executive is now looking at what to do about antisocial behaviour. I do not propose that anyone should deal with antisocial behaviour through punishment beatings. I will attempt to take a multi-agency approach, with education and welfare officers, officials from the Housing Executive, probation officers and juvenile liaison officers around the table to establish whether it is young people or particular families in communities who are offending.

The Housing Executive has also established a specialist antisocial behaviour unit. A police officer has been seconded to the Housing Executive, and, in turn, the Housing Executive has seconded one of its workers to Mediation Network.

It is mediation that we need. In the end, I believe we must have the increased powers that we seek in both civil and criminal law, as well as the inter-agency community responses to young people who offend. That is the only way forward.

Mr McCartney:

It is an indictment of the procedures of this House that, on a subject matter of this gravity, Members wishing to speak are only afforded five minutes to do so. I also find it amazing that Sinn Féin should ascribe the cause of the brutalities and obscenities in the beatings, shootings and stabbings that are going on to the RUC. What is even more amazing is that the representative of the SDLP should suggest that it is really all down to the Housing Executive and the social security agencies.

The PUP suggests that this is a matter of fraudulent statistics by making references to Vincent McKenna. The statistics quoted in the House today, however, were those of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. If anything, those statistics are an understatement of the true position. Everyone knows that a very significant proportion of those who are subjected to beatings and intimidation do not report the matter to the authorities, which essentially makes these statistics an understatement.

Let me return to the political basis for these beatings. Beatings, stabbings, intimidations and shootings are a method by which paramilitary organisations, inextricably linked with some of the parties in this House, exercise political control over substantial areas of Northern Ireland. And why are they permitted to do so? They are permitted to do so in the case of Republicanism because Republicans have the political will and the capacity to bomb the mainland. The British Government's strategic political objective is to keep bombs off the mainland, to halt attacks on economic targets and to ensure the safety of the first-class citizens on the British mainland. To maintain a degree of balance between the Republicans, who can deliver this threat, they have to also placate the Loyalist paramilitaries. If the Loyalist paramilitaries were to come off the alleged ceasefire and provoke the Republicans into a response, the whole business would collapse like a pack of cards, and the strategic objective of the British Government would be frustrated.

This report highlights two essential features. The first feature is that the principles of democracy in the rule of law, as set out by Mitchell, have been compromised, allegedly for political progress. Secondly, the British Government have adopted a "Hear no evil, see no evil" policy towards the violence of the "good terrorists" that are said to be within the peace process. In fact, there is no difference between the "good terrorists" and the dissident terrorists who have been active recently. There are only terrorists. The "good terrorists" may, in the short term, not be committing these depredations because they feel that the political system has to deliver their objectives merely by the threat of terror. But they also benefit from the terror of the so-called dissidents. Anyone who suggests that the present activity of the so-called dissidents is to wreck the peace process is living in another world.

The purpose of those dissidents is to say to the British Government "This is a taste of what the 'good terrorists' can give you if they come off ceasefire." That is why the British Government, with regard to the definition of the ceasefire, do not count the murder of Andrew Kearney, the murder of Charles Bennett or the massive intimidation and beatings that go on. It is also why they continue to say in the round "These are not breaches of the ceasefire."

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The Chief Constable has talked about the distorted values of those "good terrorists" who describe these beatings as not being a breach of their ceasefire commitments - ceasing military operations. It seems that the British Government prefer the distorted view of terrorists to the opinion of the Chief Constable.

More and more people will be affected by the rise in crime. More and more people will be like the denizens of the ghettos - outside the peace process - and more people are beginning to question what the peace process is. It is a licence for terror as long as it serves British policy.

I support the motion.

Mrs Courtney:

Punishment by self-appointed persons has been part of our community for many years. In the past we had kneecapping, which often resulted in severe injuries to individuals and, in many instances, loss of limbs. That was only one of the barbaric practices carried out by so-called punishment squads. This was condoned for years by certain political parties but never condemned. The ultimate punishment is death itself. Often it meant a bullet in the head, the person blindfolded and left on a remote country road. In more recent times we have had punishment beatings using baseball bats, sticks and even sledgehammers.

The report on informal criminal justice systems carried out by the Violence Research Project found that such systems had different motivations in Loyalist and Republican areas. In Republican areas, the prime targets for punishment are young people involved in antisocial behaviour such as car theft, joyriding and housebreaking. In Loyalist areas, punishment attacks are used to maintain internal discipline and police their own areas.

According to police statistics, between 1973 and June 2000 there have been 2,303 paramilitary shootings - approximately 85 per year - of which 43% were carried out by Loyalists and 57% by Republicans. Since 1982 there have been 1,626 beatings. That is an average of 90 per year - 46% Loyalist and 54% Republican. Those are the official statistics. The actual numbers are higher, as young people are reluctant to report them for fear of reprisals. Approximately 25% of those attacked are under 20 years of age, some as young as 13 or 14. Last week 'The Sunday Times' reported an incident in Belfast in which a 17-year-old was shot in both feet for throwing stones at the house of a man who he believed had shot his cousin.

We are all aware that, in the main, the young people who are attacked come from socially deprived areas where the community is controlled by fear. Something must be done to protect these young people and bring the perpetrators to justice. There are two main restorative justice projects operating in Northern Ireland - Greater Shankill Alternatives and Community Restorative Justice (CRJ). Both offer a non-violent alternative to punishment attacks but need further safeguards involving all the statutory agencies before they can be given the support of the whole community.

I agree with my Colleague Alban Maginness that the Good Friday Agreement is the only means of getting rid of these so-called paramilitary attacks. It is up to us to ensure that we do nothing to disrupt that process.

Mr S Wilson:

I want to deal mostly with the amendment put forward by Sinn Féin. One should not be surprised that those who, in this House and elsewhere, call for commissioners for children should defend those who mutilate children. Those who, in their ministerial positions, seek to exclude and expel bullies from school let the bullies loose on the street of Nationalist areas on a nightly basis and then come into this House and try to defend what goes on in their name.

Let us have no doubt about it. What goes on in Nationalist areas goes on in the name of IRA/Sinn Féin. It is carried out by members of IRA/Sinn Féin and then supported in this House by members of IRA/Sinn Féin. What is even more despicable is that there is so little moral courage in the SDLP that it cannot distance itself from the stance of Sinn Féin.

Let us look at some of the arguments put forward today. We are told that punishment beatings take place because there is unaccountable policing. What do you put in place of that? You put into place unaccountable punishment beatings. You have people who set themselves up - as we have heard - as judge, jury and executioner. You have people who are guilty of some of the acts that they punish others for and, indeed, who protect some within their ranks guilty of similar acts.

Last August 'The Sunday Tribune' all but named an IRA member found guilty of child abuse and who was allowed to stay in his community, protected by the IRA, because he was related to a former IRA chief of staff in west Belfast.

In Monaghan and Newry, IRA members were found guilty of child abuse and rape but were they put out of their community? Were they expelled by those who want to police their community? No. Why? It is because of their connections. We are being lectured today about unaccountable policing, yet we are being told that this is policing, and that the actions being taken are in response to community demands.

The fact is that these actions are being carried out to show - and to enforce - the terrorists' will in their communities. Mrs Courtney referred to the boy who was shot for breaking the windows of the IRA member he believed had shot his uncle. Oddly enough - despite this great talk about restorative justice - the boy's mother said that the Sinn Féin representative of the local restorative justice campaign came around the night before and told the boy to report to him at 7 o'clock to have his hands broken. These are the people who believe in non-violent alternatives.

Let us look at some of those who were formerly in the ranks of IRA/Sinn Féin and who would understand what it is all about. The verdict of one person was - and this was in the lower Ormeau - that Sinn Féin was now doing things which it would be squealing about had those things been done by the RUC.

What is Sinn Féin's aim? It is to set up a one-party police state in Nationalist areas. The RUC has warned that there will be an upsurge in such activity before the coming elections as IRA/Sinn Féin seeks to establish its print on its communities. This has nothing to do with justice.

Mr J Kelly:

Go raibh maith agat, a LeasCheann Comhairle. Sammy Wilson is always a hard act to follow. He is such a good performer.

I welcome the chance to debate this issue, and I support the motion. Dr Paisley said - [Interruption] Sorry, I rise to support the amendment. That was a bit of a Freudian slip perhaps.

Dr Paisley said that the RUC issue is a red herring. I suggest, in all honesty, that you cannot divorce the absence of an accepted policing service from the issue of punishment beatings. Sinn Féin has consistently attempted, and will consistently attempt, to condemn punishment beatings in our community.

As elected politicians, councillors or Assembly Members, we have attempted to put in place a mechanism to eradicate the dreadful image of punishment beatings. It is a difficult situation, and constituents knock on your door to ask what you will do about certain individuals who are making their lives hell on earth. For one reason or another, these people do not want to go to the RUC. Perhaps in Mr Billy Hutchinson's community they do not want to go because they do not get an adequate response. Members of the Nationalist community suspect that the RUC allows this to happen to create informers or to help create a situation on the ground where people will say that they want it back into their areas and that they want the RUC to be unreconstructed.

Databases and the various devices which were mentioned cannot cure what is a fundamentally political issue. I know of no Republican or Nationalist who wants young men, young women or anyone else to be subjected to a crucifixion shooting or a punishment beating. The fact is that this is what the local people demand, and it is difficult to know how to respond to that. The issue of the RUC is not a red herring; it is one which cannot be divorced from activities such as punishment beatings in Nationalist areas. We have heard from Mr Ervine and Mr Billy Hutchinson about what has happened in the lower Shankill and about the lack of response from the RUC during the dreadful situation that was allowed to develop in that area. It was, in fact, the efforts of the Loyalist paramilitaries, rather than any external agency, that brought an end to those attacks.

Punishment attacks and beatings are wrong; they have no place in any civilised society, and Sinn Féin has no problem in spelling that out. However, we do not yet live in a normal, civilised society that is policed in a normal way. There is an absence of fair and impartial policing. The Nationalist/Republican people do not have faith in, nor do they give allegiance to, what they consider to be a discredited RUC.

Let us not forget the ongoing punishment beatings being administered by the RUC, such as that which took place last week on two young schoolgirls at Greencastle, County Tyrone. Unfortunately, in the absence of fair and impartial policing for all, so-called punishment attacks will continue. That is neither a threat nor a promise, but a statement of fact and a recognition of the reality in Nationalist and Republican areas.

Mrs E Bell:

Although I have only cursorily read the report, my comments will be as relevant as some of those that have been made in the Chamber today.

Alliance supports the motion because paramilitary attacks are one of the greatest scourges of our society and it is right and proper that the Assembly should declare its total revulsion towards them. The Assembly must call upon the Government to take more resolute action to stamp them out completely.

We do, however, have reservations about two aspects of the motion. First, I am appalled at the DUP's use of the term "punishment beatings". The use of the term "punishment" confers on the act a degree of legitimacy by suggesting that the guilt of a victim is an established fact.

The victims may be suspected of taking part in antisocial behaviour, but it is solely a suspicion - untried and unproven - on the parts of people who are not legally equipped to make those judgements. In many other instances, victims are singled out, simply for crossing the path of one of the local godfathers. The most infamous example of this is the attack on Andrew Kearney in Artillery Flats.

I want to make it clear: we should never grant legitimacy to such activities - never. The paramilitary groups involved act as judge, jury and executioner and show no regard for either the due processes of law or for basic, internationally accepted human rights standards. At the very least, the DUP should have referred to them as so-called punishment beatings or, better still, as what they really are - paramilitary attacks.

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It is not just the DUP, however, who fall into that trap. The Government, the media and even some human rights groups repeatedly make the same error. The Government retain responsibility for criminal justice, and it is correct that we should call on them for more robust and resolute action against such activities. There have been few arrests, fewer prosecutions and virtually no convictions for these barbaric acts, which seem to get worse every day. There is a major problem with getting people to report what they know and to speak out in court, but there are other methods of getting evidence, such as forensic science. In pursuing the perpetrators of such barbarities, the Government must show no pragmatism or political expediency. Such activities are not directed primarily against the Good Friday Agreement, but the agreement will be greatly weakened if it is not used to strengthen the respect for the rule of law.

The attacks should be seen in the wider context of the growing problem of institutionalised paramilitarism. Some in our society like to paint a picture in which there are good paramilitaries, who are avuncular local figures, and bad paramilitaries, who are a burden on the backs of the people. All paramilitarism is wrong, and it is nothing short of subversion of the rule of law and democracy. Institutionalised paramilitarism contributes to a sense of ghettoisation and social exclusion, to say nothing of the denial of a wide range of opportunities and rights. A culture of communal separation allows the problem to grow and fester. It gives weight to the misguided notion that distinct communities in Northern Ireland can have autonomy at the expense of the police and the courts. With policing reform well under way, it is time for all parts of society to embrace a single, professional police service for the whole Province.

The RUC has come under scrutiny from a wide variety of ill-informed international bodies - and one or two local bodies - some of whom, undoubtedly, have an axe to grind. The degree of scrutiny is unparalleled anywhere in the world. The RUC has been castigated for methods that, on the whole, are more professional and more restrained than those to be seen daily in the Republic or in the USA. What do we hear from those bodies about the activity of paramilitaries? There is a deafening silence, with only the speeches and behaviour of Prof Brice Dickson and the Human Rights Commission as an honourable exception. Often, there is a suggestion - repeated, I am sorry to say, in the Sinn Féin amendment - that the cessation of such behaviour is conditional upon the creation of what such groups consider to be an accountable policing service. Silence can readily be taken as consent. It is time to stop viewing human rights as an issue relating solely to the duty of the state towards the individual citizen and to start considering it in the context of how we treat one another.

I have often seen at first hand the effects on supposed criminals and their families of a visit from the local hoods. I saw it as a worker with the Peace People organisation in the 1970s and 1980s, when I worked with families who had been intimidated. More recently, I saw it as a member of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland. Prof McWilliams has described the problem.

It is an indictment of our society that such things still occur today. I support the motion, but not the amendment.

Mr Attwood:

I have two comments to make on Mr John Kelly's contribution. He said that the attacks would continue because there was no policing and because it was the wish of the community. Such comments have serious implications. It does not surprise me that John Kelly should say that it was the wish of the community. In the past, another organisation from the Republican tradition imposed its will upon the community on this island. I am not surprised that now, when a small, unrepresentative section of the community in parts of the North demands punishment attacks, Sinn Féin responds, using a spurious legitimacy to justify the fact that punishment attacks are carried out in our community.

Secondly, it is the politics of denial and irresponsibility to say that because there is no policing, the worst form of policing should be imposed upon our community. That is a policing that denies human rights and denies the due process and rule of law. It imposes the worst forms of punishment upon people in very spurious and invalid circumstances. If the only basis on which Sinn Féin can come to the Chamber and explain away its attitude to punishment attacks is to say that they occur because of the wishes of a small section of people in Republican communities, and because there is no policing, then I do wonder how far Sinn Féin has moved on the issues of policing, criminal justice and how to properly conduct affairs at community level.

Mr Roche:

I find the Member's comments entirely incongruous. The Member is supporting the implementation of the Patten report, which would permit the people who are currently carrying out these so-called punishment beatings into the police. That seems to be an entirely untenable position.


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