‘They’re cowards and fantasists’

Chief Inspector Jonny Hunter.
Chief Inspector Jonny Hunter.

A senior police officer has branded those behind a series of violent attacks in Derry over the past week as ‘fantasists’ who commit ‘barbaric’ acts in pursuit of their own criminal interests.

Chief Inspector Jonny Hunter said those responsible for the recent spate of paramilitary-style attacks in the city that left six people in hospital appeared happy to brutalise their own communities.

Attacks.

Attacks.

“There is no justifying these attacks, they are barbaric. Those who continue to believe in the use of violence, from whatever criminal grouping they claim to represent, do so to cement their own status and exert control, in full acceptance of the fact that they are victimising their own communities.

“They pedal the fantasy that they exist to protect or defend the community but the reality is that they are driven by their own self-interest.

“They show cowardice in the way they fail to make themselves accountable and continue to carry out acts of violence despite having little to no community support,” said Chief Inspector Hunter.

The senior police officer said that having worked closely with local communities he believed people were tired of the scourge of paramilitarism.

“The majority of people in our communities want to make the transition away from paramilitaries and the associated intimidation and violence.

“The police officers serving Derry City and Strabane on a daily basis know this through close engagement with local representatives and partner agencies, and by speaking to and listening to local residents and taking on board their concerns,” he said.

Chief Inspector Hunter was responding to the spike in paramilitary-style activity last Thursday and Friday when six people were injured in three separate assaults in Creggan, Galliagh and Top of the Hill.

Five people alone were hurt in paramilitary beatings in Derry last week, more than were injured in the policing district - including Strabane - in the entire 12 months to August.

A man was also shot in the leg in an attack on Friday night.

Alarmingly, these attacks were followed by the explosion of a pipe bomb in Bond’s Place on Tuesday night which is being treated as a potential ‘sectarian hate crime’; and a worrying incident on the same night that saw masked men smashing windows, burning a van and reportedly firing shots in Galliagh.

“Our desire and our main priority is to keep the people of this vibrant district safe and those who engage in these attacks will not destroy the strong relationships that have been created here.

“We will continue to focus our efforts on dismantling the structures of paramilitarism and we will continue to encourage the community to engage with us. We all want the violence to end and by working together we can make this happen,” said the Chief Inspector.