Call for more police in the North
An extra 1,000 police are needed to combat Northern Ireland’s growing terror threat, rank and file officers warned today.
The threat from dissident republicans and other paramilitaries risks undermining the region’s bid for more tourists and more investment, Police Federation chairman Terry Spence added.
There have been more than 90 terrorist incidents since the beginning of the year, according to the organisation.
Yet the federation’s annual conference near Belfast heard ministers were deluded about the gravity of the threat and persisting in running down the full-time reserve, dismantling the intelligence networks and de-fortifying barracks.
“These hasty and indeed costly decisions were taken by people dazzled with the excitement of devolution," claimed Mr Spence.
“They were determined to see a new horizon of peace. Where they saw peace, most of us, who have lived and policed here, saw only an illusion and tried to tell them so but to our cost, they claimed to know better.
“Those who have come to serve in Northern Ireland should recognise the centuries-old nature of the divisions which plague our communities. Those divisions remain deep-seated.”
Policing and justice powers were devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly in April and David Ford was appointed the first justice minister.
He was in the audience at the conference near Comber, Co Down, which was attended by over 170 delegates and representatives of UK, Ireland and other international police associations.
Since the beginning of the year there have been eight bomb and 15 gun attacks and 54 people have been charged with terrorism offences.
In January Constable Peadar Heffron was seriously injured by an under-car booby trap bomb. Since then there have been a further 50 bombing incidents and 21 gun attacks including three officers shot and wounded during serious rioting in north Belfast.
More than 80 officers have been injured during rioting orchestrated by dissidents. More than 30 officers have applied for emergency re-housing because of threats to their lives and those of their immediate families.
In Kilkeel last month only the caution of a young officer prevented both her and her seven-year-old daughter from being severely injured or killed by another under-car booby trap bomb.
This is on top of the dissident killings of two young soldiers, Sappers Patrick Azimkar and Mark Quinsey, and PC Stephen Carroll last year.
“The unpalatable truth is that we as serving police officers and even retired officers are back to examining the underside of our vehicles again. It is with an enormous sense of having been here before that we have deep concerns for our safety and even more so for that of our families," said Mr Spence.
“What makes this issue more frustrating for the federation is the capacity for self -delusion amongst ministers and politicians."
During his speech, Mr Ford said politicians were not deluded about the threat faced by police and called for all parts of the community to address the challenges. But he said resources would be harder to come by and added that he would be interested in a review in England and Wales of police pay and allowances.
“We need to reward people fairly for the role they play but we have to accept that there are no sacred cows,” he said.
“I do not think it is fair or reasonable to expect PSNI officers to fill the void left within our community by failure to agree, whether in relation to parading or other sensitive issues, year after year,” the minister added.
“As a society, we have a duty to find ways of moving forward on these issues, including specifically in respect of the most contentious parading."