Police in Derry went ‘out on a limb’ to divert from paramilitary risks

A leading academic has hailed ‘fantastic’ partnership working in Derry involving the PSNI, the local community and youth service for diverting young people from paramilitarism but lamented that this ‘unfortunately’ has not been replicated often enough elsewhere.

By Kevin Mullan
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 4:25 pm

Dr. Colm Walsh, a research fellow at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University, Belfast, told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee during an evidence session.

Dr. Walsh noted that police in Derry had gone ‘out on a limb’ to try to address the problem.

“There are examples of where the police work has been exemplary in how they work with communities and where they have found really beneficial solutions to reduce risk and exploitation,” he said.

Sign up to our daily Derry Journal Today newsletter

Academic briefs NI Affairs Committee on efforts to address paramilitarism in Derry.

Dr. Walsh claimed schemes in Derry had helped to address paramilitarism in the city.

“The problem has been that it has not been replicated. The police as an institution has not seen where this really good work has been happening and look for ways that it can be mainstreamed in some ways.

“There are examples there. There is a really good example of fantastic work in the north-west, in Derry.

“Again, that was the police going out on a limb to try something different, the youth service trying something different and the community giving this partnership a go, and that really paid dividends.

“Unfortunately, the learning from that has not been mainstreamed or scaled up in any way within the police,” said the leading researcher.

Dr. Walsh was providing evidence to the NIAC’s ongoing enquiry in to the effect of paramilitaries on society in the north.

During the course of the session the academic noted that in working class areas where there are high levels of deprivation there is evidence of ‘significant mistrust of outsiders’ and ‘a lack of confidence in the state’.

“Increasingly, we are seeing that those communities—both Catholic, nationalist, republican and Protestant, unionist, loyalist—equally have an increasing mistrust of the police, which is a significant concern.

“At a community level, we see that there are attitudes and beliefs that endorse violence,” he told MPs.

He added: “Under certain conditions, things can be legitimised and the harm that it causes can be neutralised. There are multiple factors that give rise to this, create vulnerabilities and sustain paramilitaries in communities.”