As you may know, one of the campaigns run by young people through Public Achievement‘s WIMPS project was the ‘Stop Attacks’ campaign. Young people campaigned to raise the scourge of so-called ‘punishment beatings’ which were happening in a regular basis in their communities. This is one of the most significant human rights abuses going on in Northern Ireland – and very few people are talking about it.
WIMPS had some success – managing to get the issue onto the agenda of the Northern Ireland Policing Board and back into the media. One young woman even managed the doorstep the Chief Constable at the meeting – getting a commitment from him to do something about it. However, the closure of Public Achievement and WIMPS has meant that there is no-one campaigning on this issue any more – and the attacks are being carried out on a very regular basis – at least one per week.
For non-local readers, these take the form of summary ‘justice’ dished out by self-styled paramilitary ‘leaders’ as a way of dealing what they refer to as ‘anti-social behaviour’. If you’ve been born into a Republican community then you are likely to be shot in the knees, elbows or somewhere else in the limbs. If you’re ‘lucky’ the bullet will go through flesh and not shatter any bones. If you’ve been born into a Loyalist community the weapon of choice is likely to be a cudgel of some kind. Baseball bats are a favourite – often with nails or glass embedded in them – or golf clubs, iron bars – basically anything that is hard, can be wielded and will inflict maximum pain.
I’ve heard from medics that the injuries from the beatings are often harder to treat than the shootings as they can result in multiple fractures, major nerve and tissue damage and so on. Not much of a choice either way.
Many of the victims have been young people – including children – and the Police clearance rate for these crimes has been consistently below 4%. Politicians regularly ‘condemn’ these attacks, but there is nothing resembling a strategy to end them and to support communities to identify the perpetrators to the police.
As a first step, I want to do some private research, and I could use your help. I want to talk to victims of these shootings – either recent or people who have been living with the consequences for some time. I also want to talk to medics and other professionals (social workers?) who deal with the consequences of the attacks. I am working on securing some funding to produce an independent film on the issue – but initially I just want to talk to people off the record, and to record their stories – anonymously if necessary.
Please feel free to use the contact form below to get in touch, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll follow up all leads – and I’ll post an update when I make some progress. All information will be kept in confidence. Please feel free to share this article on your own social media.