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MLA Justin McNulty has hit out at ‘irresponsible figures within political unionism and their enablers in the media.’

The Newry & Armagh Assembly Member has said, ‘I know I can speak for many people across our area when I say that the recommendations contained within the South Armagh Policing Review were received like a breath of fresh air – they were long overdue and sorely needed.

‘With that in mind, I found myself totally dismayed by the reckless dog whistle politics that has been exhibited by the usual suspects within hard-line political unionism and their enablers in the media. Far too often, public figures in the North pay lip service to reconciliation and the need to build a truly shared society, but when opportunities to address the sordid vestiges of our past come along and give us a chance to move forward together on an equal footing, which is exactly the what the South Armagh Policing Review does, far too many of our elected officials run for the hills and retreat into their sectarian bunkers in an effort to score cheap political points.

‘From some quarters, there has been a particular fixation on the provision of the report which recommends that police become more circumspect with their use of assault weapons, with some regressive voices from outside of the area sowing the seeds of mistrust and doubt in that regard, but you really have to ask yourself – is there any need for a police officer to be armed with a G36 Assault Rifle while attending a Road Traffic Collision?

‘Some have suggested that the recommendations constitute a ghettoisation of policing - that’s just not true. In truth, by ending the carrying of heavy assault weapons as SOP, recommending an evidence-based streamlining of the PSNI’s operational footprint within the area, and bringing about an enhanced police presence with provision for foot patrols and a commitment to engage directly with the community and invest in neighbourhood policing, the Review represents a harmonisation of policing policy between South Armagh and the rest of the North.

In reflecting on Tuesday’s announcement, I’m reminded of the sentiments expressed by the late John Hume upon the delivery of the Good Friday Agreement - “today is not about victory or defeat for nationalism or unionism - it is about something much greater than that. Today, we can take a collective breath and begin to blow away the cobwebs of the past”

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