Punishment units target children

THE RATE of IRA punishment shootings in Northern Ireland has increased in spite of the establishment of an international monitoring body to examine whether or not the military wing of the republican movement is adhering to the non-violence terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

Among cases which have come to light in the past six weeks is one where three teenagers were shot in the ankles in west Belfast. They were alleged to have been involved in an incident in which a priest claimed to have been assaulted. Within days of the incident in a primary school, an IRA unit from Ardoyne in north Belfast arrived in the Turf Lodge area and shot the youths. Local people say one was dragged from a christening in a local club by armed men and shot.

The IRA is also blamed for kneecapping another five youths in west Belfast, all in the last month.

In another attack in the nationalist Short Strand area of east Belfast two weeks ago, a man was shot in both elbows and ankles. The victim, in his forties, may have suffered permanent, crippling injuries. Another 18-year-old man was also kneecapped in the Short Strand days later.

Sinn Fein's position on so-called 'punishment shootings' is that "these sorts of things can happen in the vacuum that exists because of the lack of effective policing". The party also claims not to know who is responsible.

However, other sources say that it is well known that the IRA has been stepping up its punishment attacks and that young men can be shot for relatively minor incidents. One of the series of kneecappings in west Belfast followed an earlier altercation between the victims and a man closely associated with, but not a member of, Sinn Fein.

Since January, the IRA is believed to have carried out 48 punishment shootings and 28 beatings. Loyalist groups have carried out 59 shootings and 59 beatings.

Paramilitary punishment shootings and beatings are now running at what may be an all-time high. Since the Good Friday Agreement, which called for an end to such attacks, was signed in 1998, loyalists have shot more than 425 people and republicans have shot over 240.

Also information drawn up by Dr Liam Kennedy, professor of economic and social history at Queen's University, has shown that the age of punishment shooting and beating victims has fallen, with some victims as young as 13 and 14.

Interviewed in the Belfast Telegraph this summer, Professor Kennedy said: "Writing this report made me more and more angry. How does one write dispassionately about young lives torn apart by terror? We know the awful truth. We know that paramilitary organisations systematically abduct, terrify and mutilate children in this society.

"Yet our response has been pathetically inadequate. London and Dublin have failed us - the local political parties have failed us.

"The hypocrisy, the lying, and the self-delusion that runs through loyalism and republicanism, from street level through to representation in the Assembly, tell us that we inhabit a strange, deformed society."

The four-member International Monitoring Commission is still working out its exact status but it is intended it will have the discretion to recommend that political parties linked to paramilitary activity should be sanctioned.

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?