Upsurge in NI violence is a threat to all of us
Published 07/05/2015 | 02:30
The sudden upsurge in violence in Northern Ireland is an indication of a shifting of underworld power from the Provisional IRA to criminal gangs, mostly involved in the lucrative drugs trade.
There can be no doubt that the assassination of a former IRA commander on the streets of Belfast would have drawn bloody retribution just a short few years ago. Now that the Sinn Féin strategy of "an Armalite in one hand and the ballot paper in the other" no longer holds sway, criminal elements have become emboldened enough to take on the once-powerful Republican movement by killing such a senior and respected figure. The PSNI and Sinn Féin were both quick to point out that this murder was neither sectarian nor terrorist linked, and local opinion is that this and other attacks against prominent Republican/Sinn Féin figures is an open challenge to the once-powerful control that they exerted.
These events come on the eve of a general election in Britain and Northern Ireland and the impending visit of a senior member of the British Royal family, Prince Charles, and his wife Camilla, to Ireland.
It is important for the authorities on both sides of the Border to crack down on the illicit trade in drugs and the powerful gangs that have emerged in recent years and are now emboldened enough to take on both the authorities and once-powerful paramilitary forces.
While the former IRA leader, Gerard 'Jock' Davison, may himself have been involved in horrific events - including, it is believed, the killing of Robert McCartney in a Belfast bar - nothing justifies his murder.
It is imperative that politicians on both sides of the divide in Northern Ireland, and indeed in co-operation with politicians here and in Britain, unite against this latest violence and those who are perpetrating it. We already know the devastation caused to families by the drugs trade and the arrogance that follows in its wake, leading to gang war and indiscriminate killing.
What happened this week is a clear sign that a new and open threat is emerging on this island and it must be met full-on by the authorities, or it will inevitably lead to further bloodshed and misery.
Public sector: less talk, more reform
Although the Haddington Road Agreement runs until well into 2016, public sector pay talks are due to begin in Dublin next week.
We know public servants want pay cuts and pension levies to be reversed. What the Government wants is public service reform.
However, one voice has been missing from such discussions almost since their inception - the voice of the taxpayer.
In previous sets of negotiations, the public servants, politicians, union members and others all benefited. But all these interest groups averted their eyes when it came to consider who was going to pick up the bill for such generosity to themselves.
It is imperative that those who fund the public service are uppermost in the minds of those who enter Government Buildings next week and the first post-recession talks do not turn into a free for all at the expense of those who have suffered most over seven lean years.
The first item on next week's agenda should be less talk and more action on public sector reform and a concentration of minds on who ultimately pays the bill.