Investigation may help break deadlock

ONE of the conventions of those courtroom dramas so very popular in the early days of television was that a prosecutor would never ask a question he — it was always a “he” in those monochrome, mackintosh days — did not already know the answer to. It was a policy that tripped up many theatrical, over-the-top villians.

Though we can’t be certain that Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers already knows what conclusions the independent assessment of paramilitary organisations and criminality might reach, it would be surprising if she did not have a reasonably accurate view of the current state of play in the North. A “factual assessment” will be carried out by three individuals, yet to be appointed, and will be published by mid-October. It is to be hoped the report will make a positive contribution to resolving the latest impasse to bedevil Stormont politics. That hope, however, must be tempered by the possibility that the investigation might confirm that some terrorists, albeit rebranded, are part of a structure involved in crime. They may no longer style themselves as the IRA or the UVF but they are, if widespread beliefs are confirmed, still a thorn in the side of a society struggling to shake off the legacy of decades of violence. Yesterday’s discovery of more than half a kilogram of Semtex, firearms, and ammunition in west Belfast as part of an investigation into dissident republicans, points to a unattractive reality too.


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