The case against punishment shootings/beatings

Time to Go – end paramilitary control – began this morning, before most (but not all) journalists were ready to get out from their beds. Those who did make it, were Liam Kennedy (the Independent who organised it), Alex Attwood (SDLP), Chris McGimpsey (UUP), John Lowry (Worker’s Party). David Ervine did not show, but offered to debate punishment shootings in his own East Belfast constituency. Diane Dodds apparently had a school run to complete. Gerry Adams didn’t reply to his invitation.

Kennedy referred to official police figures which show there had been more than 3000 punishments shootings and 2250 punishment beatings since the beginning of the troubles. He also noted a culture change in the course of the troubles, arguing that this kind of treatment would not have been tolerated in the West Belfast of the 1960’s but have come to be looked on as entirely acceptable in the community at large.

John Lowry argued that punishment beatings is “a question of social control over working class areas by paramilitaries”. He was highly critically community restorative justice, arguing that although the theory is fine, but that in West Belfast “it’s being used in some instances to establish an alternative police force”. He talked of people having summonses delivered at 1 o’clock in the morning to restorative meetings at 10 o’clock in the morning”, sometimes along with warnings of the dire consequences should they not attend.

Alex Attwood claimed that “…on the ground people are crying out for lawful authority. They can see their communities under stress because of the absence of the law and due process of the law”. He argued that paramilitaries had too much to lose when it came to accepting this lawful authority of the state and that they don’t show many signs of accepting this anytime soon.

However, he does see a changing attitude amongst Nationalists in West Belfast towards the PSNI. He asserted that despite pressures from the hard men and their distrust of the police people in West Belfast are beginning to turn to the PSNI for community are beginning to test the police, and “in turn the police more times than not are beginning to pass that test”.

Chris McGimpsey (the only Unionist on the platform) reported from the other side of the peace line. Where nationalists don’t accept the legitimacy of the PSNI, Unionists do. But that doesn’t seem to make any difference on the Shankill. He questioned the paramilitary’s c the vigorous recruitment of youngsters into organisations like the Young Citizen Volunteers and the Ulster Young Militants (youth wings of the UVF and the UDA respectively) -“it’s because the paramilitaries want to have a continuing stake in our society”.

He pointed out that the paramilitaries are part of the community: “When you ask people in the community about paramilitaries, you are talking about the fellah who used to date your sister, the guy who sat beside you in Sunday School, your brother-in- law or the guy you used to kick football with in the Boys Brigade”. In tight knit communities many families will contain people who are both victims of punishment shootings, and members of the paramilitaries. This makes it difficult to galvanise unified community action against paramilitary activity.

  • harry

    Alex Attwood lives in a world of his own.

    The vast majority of people living in the west of the city have no confidence in the psni and this is reflected in the huge vote Sinn Fein recieve within the constituency.

  • Scarlet

    Don’t tell me there is a case for punishment shootings as the heading implies that this is the natural status quo.

    But there again perhaps it is in Republican and Loyalist areas.

  • Chris Gaskin

    “But there again perhaps it is in Republican and Loyalist areas.”

    The sad reality Scarlet is that in some communities there is support for punishment beatings

  • clug

    Interesting comments from John Lowry of the Workers Party.

    “a question of social control over working class areas by paramilitaries”.

    Interesting because the last paramilitary shooting in West Belfast was carried out by the Official IRA,which is the military wing of the Workers Party.

    Restorative justice may not be an ideal formula but it is better than being shot in the legs

  • spartacus

    Ho hum. This is no doubt the high point of Liam Kennedy’s ‘campaign.’ The SDLP will be subjected to a (metaphorical) ‘punishment beating’ at the hands of its own constituents on May 5th. Atwood and co. have no one to blame but themselves.

  • Mick

    To be fair to Alex he was very clear that this effect was entirely marginal. And he made no claims as to the extent that his party would be beneficiaries.

  • JD

    Mick/ anyone:

    Could someone point me to any useful/ reliable resources on the topic of restorative justice?

  • hoots


    could you give me some insight into your post on the workers party

  • Tomasmaguire


    Dug is undoubtedly refering to an incident almost two weeks ago in Albert Street, Lower falls, West belfast whereupon a man got out of a silver coloured car and shot one of the west’s most notorious death drivers, an 18 year old youth, three times with a handgun.

    Press speculation associated The official IRA with the incident given the history of their presence in that area. The Workers Party strenuously denied responsibility and bluntly denouced the attack outright.

    In the case of Albert Street, an area until very recently plagued with anti-social behaviour and a virtual magnet for all and any anti-social element from around the city to congregate. That community was literally begging for someone – anyone to take this element to task. Clearly someone did and as sick as I feel writing this, it has evidently done the job as the area is now practically deserted at night. And therein lies the crux of the issue …. as horrific as it reads, in the Albert Street case … gun law is good law !!!

  • clug


    So its ok for the Workers party to carry out punishment shootings while condemning others.

    I thought the Official IRA did not exist ??

    When will the Officials give up their arms

  • cull

    Its funny that John Lowry never mentioned the fact that his party was carrying out punishment shootings, when talking during the debate on paramilitary attacks in West Belfast.

  • Andy


    Try this. However just typr Restorative Justice into Google Search engine, and there are 1000’s.


  • Tomasmaguire


    I fear you are missing the point, The sticks are totally denying responsibility for the attack of this youth. I have relatives in Milford street and am led to believe this youth had an altercation with a workers party official the day before. Hence when he was clipped, local people put two and two together and got five.

    However the truth is less contrived, the local community had been crying out for months and months to have this element dealt with, particularily those who invite other hoods into the area from all over the city. The shooting was clearly a response to that community’s plight by ‘persons unknown.’

    It was certainly not the result of an altercation in the street particulary given the warning to those standing with this youth at the time who were threatened in no uncertain terms to cease their anti-social activities & leave the area permanently or the next bullet fired would be a head shot for one of them !!! Appalling stuff but like I said, these beseiged communities clearly support the ‘policing’ it believes will work best and in the absence of any viable law and order … in Albert Street at least … gun law is it !!!

  • clug


    I have spoken to local people within the area about the shooting ,and they claim that those involved were members of the Workers Party.

    Naturally they will deny it

    No claim – No blame