Catholics are victims of majority of dissident republican violence

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Violent republicans tried to shoot or bomb 175 people over the past decade: the vast majority were Catholic civilians.

And in the six years up to 2015, dissident groups, including the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, RAAD, Óglaigh na hÉireann and the IRA, killed 12 people.

These are among the findings of the ‘Fresh Start’ panel, comprising John Alderdice, John McBurney and Professor Monica McWilliams, which has newly reported on the proposed ‘Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland.’

They point out that dissidents shot or bombed nearly 200 people over the past ten years or so.

The authors report: “Almost twenty years after the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, the greatest threat to security is the armed campaigns of what have come to be known as Dissident Republican (DR) groups.

“Hoax and real security alerts caused by these groups continue to force people out of their homes and disrupt traffic, business and other aspects of daily life.

“Attacks by DRs have also led to 12 deaths in the 6 years up to 2015. Recent analysis found that DRs were linked to bombing and shootings against 175 people in the period 2007-2015; 77 per cent of the victims were Catholic civilians.”

The report also lays out in black and white the staggering scale of intimidation still ongoing in both republican and loyalist areas.

The authors estimate that around a thousand people were forced out of their own communities by paramilitaries between 2012/13 and 2014/15 alone.

“Approximately 1,000 people were driven out of their homes between 2012/13 and 2014/15 due to paramilitary intimidation from within their own community.

“Over the same period, the NIHE accepted 99 cases linked to sectarian intimidation and 77 to racial intimidation, many of which are likely to be connected to members of paramilitary groups.

“In addition, the NIHE spends an estimated average of £0.8m pa on its Special Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED) programme, 16 through which the NIHE purchases the houses of those forced to leave as a result of a threat or intimidation and where the PSNI confirms that they are at risk of death or serious injury,” the report says.

And the extent to which republicans and loyalists have ‘punished’ members of their own communities, including many children and young people, since the start of the conflict is mind-boggling.

Four thousand are recorded as having been targeted and the phenomenon is ongoing.

“Some members and former members of paramilitary groups on ceasefire continue to engage in violent activity to intimidate and exercise control in communities where they operate.

“In some cases this activity is directed by local leadership but it can also be conducted without sanction. The scale of the problem has vastly reduced since the height of ‘the Troubles’ but brutal physical attacks continue. Such attacks are usually carried out by Loyalist or Republican groups on members of their own community to exert coercive control.

“The attack can take the form of a physical assault, which typically involves a group of assailants attacking an individual with iron bars or baseball bats, resulting in physical injury.

“Alternatively, the attack may involve shooting the person in the knees, elbows, feet, ankles or thighs. Multiple injuries can result from a single incident and, indeed, some victims have died.

“There have been almost 4,000 recorded casualties resulting from such attacks since the start of ‘the Troubles’. The number of recorded attacks has generally reduced in recent years, with 88 casualties recorded by the PSNI in 2015.

“The figures do not include attacks that are not reported to the PSNI and so undoubtedly underestimate the scale of the problem. Many of the victims are children and young people.”