Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Concern at police failure to deal with ‘criminality and intimidation’ in Cullyhanna

There are heightened fears among the community of south Armagh that the PSNI is failing to deal with a small number of people in the Cullyhanna area who are involved in criminality and intimidation, MP Mickey Brady has claimed.

Speaking after meeting with senior PSNI officers in Newry on Thursday, Mr Brady says that despite having “the support of the local community”, the gang, which he alleges is involved in “widespread criminality”, has gone unchallenged by police.

Commenting on the situation, he said: “This gang shot local man Michael Bellew as part of a campaign of intimidation to force him from his home; attempted to murder Frank McCabe Junior; and are routinely involved in a wide range of criminality, generating huge sums of money. Yet despite all of this, it seems to the local community those involved seem to operate with impunity.

“The failure of the PSNI to tackle this gang is undermining community confidence in their ability to carry out the basic functions of a policing service. It seems the people involved are protected from investigation and prosecution,” he further claimed.

Meanwhile his party colleague and local Assembly member Megan Fearon said there is a perception among the wider community that those allegedly involved in criminal practices may be operating with impunity “as they are state agents”.

“The vast majority of people in south Armagh are law abiding and reject absolutely the criminality associated with this gang. However people should rightly expect the PSNI to step up to the plate and do the job they are supposed to fulfil. The perception that a number of individuals are being allowed to operate above the law is undermining community confidence,” she said.

“The PSNI leadership must move to reassure the local community that individuals involved in criminality are not being allowed to continue to operate with impunity as they are State Agents. This is the perception which currently exists.

“The Fresh Start Agreement promised a new approached to dealing with this sort of criminal gang, yet six months on the ground there seems to be little evidence of the PSNI changing their approach.”

Ms Fearon revealed Sinn Fein will be seeking to meet with the Chief Constable George Hamilton to “highlight the community concerns at his force’s failure to secure prosecutions and investigate properly the activities of this group”.