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Paramilitary gangs on both sides of the sectarian divide are active in organised crime.
Their “punishment” beatings and shootings of drug-dealers, pimps and loan-sharks purport to be for the protection of “their” communities, but often they simply want the business for themselves.
Their share of police officers has risen from one in ten at the turn of the century to one in three, after a temporary affirmative-action programme.
National and religious identities are blurring, particularly among the young.
The Northern Irish gained the right to citizenship of the United Kingdom, Ireland, or both.Paramilitaries who had dealt in Semtex and Armalites turned their attention to early-day motions and the d’Hondt voting system. In 1972, the bloodiest year of the Troubles, 498 people were killed in sectarian violence.As recently as the early 1990s the annual death toll was around 100. Northern Ireland’s murder rate is equal to the British average, its overall crime rate slightly lower.Sectarian hate-crimes have fallen by more than half since 2005, when they started being recorded. Crumlin Road prison, once a holding place for paramilitaries, is now a tourist attraction that hosts weddings (promising, and doubtless providing, “a surrounding that will keep your guests talking”). The police detect the “continuing existence and cohesion” of an IRA hierarchy, though they accept that the organisation is now committed to a political path.So-called dissident republican gangs continue to fight a lonely war against the British state, foiled most of the time by the police and MI5, Britain’s security service, which still devotes about 15% of its energies to Northern Ireland.