#SluggerReport: What these post #AE16 shootings tell us about wicked problems in West Belfast

I would definitely listen back to the first half hour of the Nolan Show this morning. Some of the reaction from some callers was pretty chilling in their comments on four shootings since voting at Assembly elections finished. One suggested that within six or seven days no one but the families would care.

In the meantime here’s some thoughts on the wicked problems that communities like those in West Belfast face and which enforcer violence like this perpetuates…

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  • Marty McCullough

    I can emphise with these people. They’re scared and their lifes are made a nightmare through anti-social behaviour. The truth we all have to acknowlege is that the PSNI never filled the chasm of justice left after the GFA. Its clear that the value of a victim of crime is measured against the value of ” Information gleened” from other sources. The PSNI still veiws people in these areas with distrust. They were the organisation who needed to rise above the predujuce.

    On the other hand we have Politicians on all sides and community groups who like to create and sustain a level of fear within the public. They install this fear as Pavlov did to his dogs and ring their bells when they need support of a fearful public. In Belfast this is seasonal.

    Our society survives on the judgemental notion that there is Good or bad, right or wrong, nationalist or uniionist. The truth is, no matter the intention, people are post rationalising their feelings to cope with the fact they live in an area where they can only feel safe, or supported through the actions of masked gun men.

    Anyone who tries to gain status by shaming these people without dealing with the underlying casues is simply part of the problem

  • Declan Doyle

    ‘I would refer the two gentlemen back to what they previously said’ (re; condemnation) At the time the people you refer to were roundly condemned for not condemning, are they now to be condemned for condemning? Or what did u mean, exactly?

    Should the focus not be on what can be done to unravel the power these criminals have over the people in the constituency, rather than try to some how tighten the knot further by attempting to weave Sinn Fein into the scenario?

    There is a serious problem, similar to the random shootings in part of Dublin at the moment, the only people who can take these people out of the equation are the security services; why are they failing? That is the question which needs answering; urgently.

  • Jag

    I suppose, if you’re in west Belfast, and you feel intimidated, or have concerns about these activities, you could always call on your local councillor for help (but only if you can produce evidence that you voted for him)


  • Neil

    He needs to be made to retract that statement. I imagine there is a rule somewhere about that kind of thing.

  • Jag

    There are at least three separate problems, aren’t there?

    There’s the old-style paramilitary shootings, the shooting-by-appointment, and there have been several of those recently, including a seemingly botched one which resulted in a death. However, overall. aren’t punishment attacks in the decline (you need ask why there’s any, but we’re in a post-conflict society where not all armed groups have ceased operations)

    Second, there are drug-related killings over territory, extortion, debts, feuds. Belfast is becoming more like Dublin sadly, and you now frequently see drug addicts out of their minds on city centre streets. There seems to have been an explosion of hard-drug (heroin, methamphetamines) activity in Belfast in the past five years, and violence is one product of that. I blame the PSNI for this. And, with 2,000 secret service folks stationed in these six counties, you’d think that trade could have been diluted. Instead, it seems to be out of control.

    Thirdly, there are still struggles between armed “political” gangs. There are nearly 10 separate dissident republican groups, and there is animosity between them, and also towards the traditional republican movement. Some groupings intersect with the drugs trade. This internecine struggling appears to be getting worse. Again, with probably four secret service operatives per active operative in the dissidents, you’d have to wonder how this came about.

  • Skibo

    All major cities the world over have gang violence to a greater or lesser extent. The issue of trusting the police in Nationalist areas has been a long term issue, often condemned by Unionist politicians as a sign that Nationalists do not accept the police yet the very same issue is choking Loyalist areas.
    I heard Gerry Kelly’s comment on the radio and I don’t think you can find much fault with it unless you are a dissident or a criminal gang member. credit where credit is due.

  • Jim M

    I am somewhat disturbed that more hasn’t been made of Mr Corr’s comment. Clearly he’d prefer there wasn’t a secret ballot. The implications are chilling.

  • Lionel Hutz

    There is

  • Jag

    Agree totally; it’s peripheral to the theme of Mick’s article though. Would make a good Nolan show, or maybe article here on its own.

  • Jim M

    I was actually surprised it didn’t make it on to Slugger…

  • Cosmo

    As with tackling Mafia, and psychopaths like Whitey Bulger, there will probably have to be some unpalatable witness pardon deals done with rotten lower level characters, to implicate the bigger fish. So, then the little people can have enough confidence to fall in behind and do their bit to provide other evidence for convictions.
    jury tampering and intimidation is a huge threat.

  • Jim M

    Sorry what are these three separate problems? You only seem to list one… Although you are right that there are separate things going on – since Friday there seems to have been one attempted murder (which may or may not have been paramilitary related), two non-fatal punishment shootings (likely paramilitary related), and one murder (which sounds like it was paramilitary related). It’s obviously a good thing that such attacks are in decline, although that timeline suggests it’s perfectly possible for them to go up again (the levels in the early 2000s look pretty terrifying).

  • Jim M

    This is why getting rid of Diplock courts would be premature…

  • the rich get richer

    Belfast is becoming more like Dublin.

    Gangsters going around shooting whom they please and the Police (particularly the Gardai) doing very little to stop it.

  • Msiegnaro


  • Mirrorballman

    As a resident of a “Republican” area of North Belfast I feel there has recently been a huge increase in threats, intimidation, assaults (most of which don’t make the news), expulsions, shootings, pipe bombs etc all directed against the communities these groups are claiming to be protecting.
    Anyone living in the local area can be branded a “drug dealer/anti-social element” by faceless gangsters. Ironically many of the local dealers actually work for these same groups.
    There is a definite climate of fear in this working class community. Speak out and you may become the next victim. Its all about control and gangsterism nothing to do with protecting communities.

  • Marty McCullough

    Why does North Belfast seem to seperate itself as a seperate identity from the rest of Northern Ireland. The region has enjoyed great media attention for acting differntly from the rest of the country since the GFA. Do you think there is a mental isolation in the area from everyone else. This would obviously lead to greater control of the area by Gangster and Political grouping?

  • Reader

    I note that he has a plan for West Belfast residents who voted SF, SDLP, and PBP. What advice does he have for DUP voters in West Belfast (or, indeed, for SF voters in East Belfast?)

  • chrisjones2

    “Our society survives on the judgemental notion that there is Good or bad, right or wrong, nationalist or uniionist. ”

    I know . Shocking. Moral vacuum rules!!! But thats the Peace Process (TM) for you

  • chrisjones2

    It is potentially self limiting and they do have other things to do like investigate alleged murders nearly 50 years ago where almost all the parties are long dead

  • chrisjones2

    Are you suggesting they should collude? Shocking!!

    The Ombudsman will never have that.

    NIHRC, Amnesty and half the legal profession will lead a protest march to Stormont – or on second thoughts perhaps a march to the City Hall as Stormont is a long way from Malone Road.

  • chrisjones2

    There is a much simpler solution – people should go to the Stoops and PBP and when they help them they should vote for them and stop giving votes and transfers to those with an overweening sense of entitlement

  • Jim M

    Sorry, I can see all those points now; for some reason earlier I could only see your first point and the graph.

  • the rich get richer

    The Gardai particularly seem to be inept.

    There record in getting prosecutions for gangster murders are very poor .

    And the rose tinted glasses that comes to the conclusion that at least some Gardai are not on the payroll of these gangsters should be challenged.

    I hope for the sake of the people of Northern Ireland that the PSNI make a better job of tackling the gangsters.

  • Not buying the ‘choreography’ line so much. Health was put into Review, very publicly earlier this year, with a report after the election – did anyone make a consistent, credible fuss? The Benefits changes were always going to happen – so why not a bigger part of (at least the SDLP) campaign. The shootings, only a factor if it is believed that the IRA is involved, because why would dissidents spare the blushes of SF – would it not have caused a bit of tension between SF and DUP if during the election campaign, showed the impotence of SF, and perhaps boosted the UUP at DUP expense, for a ‘dissident’ win win win? Sure SF and DUP had every interest in assuring a lacklustre campaign, but that should have surely meant that any ‘opposition’ worth its salt would have worked on bringing key issues to the core and calling the big two out?! So why did the ‘opposition’ buy into the choreography. A case for choreography can be made, and nothing new in such planning, but it shouldn’t be over-stated. It is an explanation of events that is easily challenged and lends a bit too much to conspiracy that seems a default of those who can’t accept that the DUP won, nationalism offers little and that the centre running on ‘trendy issues’ has little broad relevance to the electorate.

  • murdockp

    I think it says more about having a police force comprising graduates who are in the job for the salary plus benefits rather than vocational desire and when you join for the money, engaging with gun totting nutters is not part of the job.

    And frankly I don’t blame them, a job I would not do. This feedback came from a senior police officer who told me our recruitment for the PSNI is not designed to identify vocational police officers the way it does in the UK.

    Also promotion in the police is not based on overall ability, it is based on scores from exams with the officers ranked from 1 to 100 and the first in the list get promoted first.

    It does not happen in UK police forces like this nor does it in the private sector.

    We now have a situation where even the criminals don’t fear the police any more as they know they are out there catching housewives with two kids in the back of the car doing 40 in a 30 zone to justify their existence. we have all experienced it.

    Harsh and blunt my views can be, but I am not far from the truth.

  • Thomas Barber

    Indeed Mirrorbalman those people are nothing but criminals masquerading as republicans and Ireland is the last thing on their minds. When you consider the money, resourses and technology used to target Alex McCrory, Harry Fitzimmons and Colin Duffy you then realise those gangsters get away with what they get away with because the PSNI and MI5 allow them to get away with it. The only people these gangsters are targetting and using guns on is their own people and if they are so concerned with drug abuse then why dont they call into every shop pub and off license that sells cancer sticks or alcohol and demand they stop selling products that kill people. They wont because they are just another arm of the PSNI, one that operates without courts, without witnesses and uses violence as a means to feed their own drug, alcohol and gambling problems. North Belfast just like West Belfast has similar problems, too many Bars, social clubs, off licences and bookies a breeding ground for armchair generals who enrol anti social elements and career criminals to extort money from low level drug dealers while they sit and drink beside the main suppliers of drugs.

  • Marty McCullough

    any quick google search on the internet reveals high levels of corruption within the Garda ranks. just look at Donegal.

  • Marty McCullough

    HA HA… just words – The assumption that we’re in some sort of process. Do processes not have a clear starting point and ending point. Otherwise how will we know when it stops?

  • Cosmo

    Murdock – do you know, I’m not sure exactly what ‘vocational desire’ in a policeman really means. Helping people/upholding the law/solving crimes/clearing up mess…? I hope the exams (stuff of procedure perhaps) are aimed to help makes them more proficient at gathering evidence in a way which nails the case; and also better able not group-think….. If the top brass setting the targets are careerist plonkers, well that’s another story.

  • chrisjones2

    “filled the chasm of justice ”

    You mean didnt go around intimidating or shooting teenagers who may / may not have been anti-social

  • Cosmo

    Mike, W Belfast is sounding like a mini-Phillipines, with the politics of the Phillipines. As for inward investment, if they think it’s bad now with Stormont, they’ve got even less chance if Dublin is deciding.

  • kensei

    Yeah, the U.K. Let alone anywhere else in the world has zero gangster problems

  • Declan Doyle

    Belfast is amazing but a poor second when it comes to Dublin for entertainment, the Arts and just sheer fun.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In a way “Nobody Cares” about West Belfast, and then saying “There are people in West Belfast that care” … grossly misses the point.

    These problems aren’t going to be fixed with internal compassion.

    It’s like me responding to someone who says “Nobody cares about Mick Fealty” with the response “I believe Mick Fealty cares about Mick Fealty”

    It’s a condescending use of literalism, and I say this as a person diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome who interprets things “literally” all the time.

    So I may be willing to give some benefit of the doubt here.

    People can highlight all the problems they want, it doesn’t do a damn thing to change anything making observations and then talking about them as a fait accompli.

  • Msiegnaro

    Mick – can this statement from a SF representative be ran as a feature as it has not been retracted? It has very serious implications and deserves a thorough examination.