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21 August 2008 Edition

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Editorial: No return to shoot-to-kill era

SINN FÉIN Policing Board Member, Alex Maskey MLA this week called on the DUP’s Ian Paisley Junior to withdraw his call for the PSNI to return to the tactics of the RUC shoot-to-kill era.
Paisley’s controversial comments followed a failed attack on PSNI personnel in Fermanagh which Sinn Féin pointed out merely assists rejectionist unionism and is doing nothing for the cause of Irish unity, (See story Page 6).
In a statement on Tuesday the increasingly erratic Paisley Junior said: “Sooner or later there will be a murder of a police officer unless the police are able to deploy ruthlessness in tracking down and wiping out these dissident members.”
He continued: “I believe the community will accept such measures and if dissidents are shot on sight, the community will accept that it is a necessary use of lethal force to prevent dissident republicanism from growing.”
Paisley’s remarks display a major lack of political responsibility. It is the job of politicians to build the political conditions where no one will become involved in armed actions and where no one else loses their lives in such circumstances. The measures proposed by Paisley would take us back to the RUC shoot-to-kill era which plunged so many families in the North of Ireland into grief.
Paisley’s comments will be very hurtful for those families who are still fighting for the truth of the circumstances involving the deaths of loved ones killed in RUC shoot-to-kill actions. Understandably for many, the legacy of this policy has already created a barrier to acceptance of the new policing structures. The vast majority of people North and South on this island have no wish to return to that era and politicians should moderate their comments so that they do not contribute to creating conditions that could escalate violence.
Paisley Junior’s remarks are also his latest attempt to become relevant after his dramatic fall from ministerial office. Since that political humiliation, his contributions to pubic debate have been increasingly nonsensical and irrelevant and this latest outburst falls into the same category. It also exposes a failure of sections of the DUP to come to terms with the new political realities and a failure to learn the lessons of the past.
The PSNI is not the unionist militia it replaced. The days of paramilitary policing have gone with the RUC and cannot return.
The way in which people will be convinced about the futility of carrying on pointless armed actions is to demonstrate clearly that politics works. That means the DUP entering into real partnership government. It means the DUP accepting equality and recognising that there will be no return to unionist majority rule.
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