Mr Beggs: I thank Mr Dickson for bringing the issue forward. It is a very serious matter that affects my home town of Larne. I, too, extend my best wishes to the police officer who was injured and, indeed, to the members of the public who were injured through this attack.
This was an attack by 50 to 100 masked men in two separate incidents — or perhaps it was three incidents, because three houses were involved. It is very serious. There was an attempted murder, serious assaults on individuals, and damage to homes and property. I was struck by the comments of Assistant Chief Constable George Hamilton this morning when he linked the incidents to arrests that were made last week. Those comments tell me that this was an attempt to influence the outcomes of those arrests and the criminal justice system. It is very clear that, as such, it was an attack on the police, the individuals involved and on our criminal justice system. It was an attack on this democratic Assembly. It is very serious that a serious organised crime gang is trying to affect outcomes in the criminal justice system and to influence what happens in their community. The south-east Antrim UDA is attempting to control the community and what happens in it. My information on where all this comes from is that it is spiralling from those who, a number of months ago, stood up against some of those individuals and then became targets.
So, this is a very important issue. Are members of the public going to be allowed to defend themselves and operate within the rule of law, or will a criminal organised crime gang, the south-east Antrim UDA, be able to inflict its form of justice — or rather injustice — on my local community?
I am reminded of a previous incident when the home of a family that I helped to get rehoused had been attacked twice. When the issue was pursued, it turned out that those involved said, “Oops, we made a mistake”. That is what happens when individuals take the law into their own hands: totally innocent people end up being targeted and damaged. That is why it is important that everyone in the community must stand together against the people who are trying to control it.
So, I urge everyone to support the police, to provide any information that they have to the police and, if necessary, to use the confidential Crimestoppers telephone number to make sure that the police have a good picture of and intelligence about what is happening so that they can hold those who are responsible to account. Additional specialised, police resources should be brought in to help to identify and hold the ringleaders to account.