Dissident republicans pose 'severe' risk - PSNI

 

SEVERAL HUNDRED people are actively involved in dissident republican groups and pose a “severe” and increasing threat, one of the PSNI’s most senior police officers has said.

PSNI deputy chief constable Judith Gillespie also said many people formerly involved in terrorism were now using their old gun-running routes and methods for “other contraband” associated with organised crime.

She said dissidents were continuing to engage in for-profit crime to raise money to fund terrorism. Joint Garda-PSNI operations were trying to combat this activity and to ensure the Border could not be exploited by the organisations.

Dissident groups were also continuing to recruit and the threat they posed north of the Border had been raised to “severe”.

“That’s not a word we use wantonly; we use it very carefully. We are obviously very concerned at the level of threat and it behoves us all to work together.”

Ms Gillespie was speaking to the media ahead of the opening of a Garda-PSNI cross-Border seminar on organised crime being held in Dundalk, Co Louth. The conference proper was not open to the media.

When asked how many people were involved in dissident groups, Ms Gillespie said. “We’re talking in the low hundreds, but it depends what you mean by ‘involved’.

“There are people who tacitly support these people; those people who turn a blind eye to what they do or don’t report what they do . . . or by lending a vehicle. But in terms of active involvement, you’re talking about low hundreds.”

However, she said the PSNI did not want to see British soldiers back on the streets and believed the force had the capacity to fight terrorism without on-street military support.

Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy said while there was evidence dissidents were recruiting in the Republic, most of this activity was in the North.

Similarly, he added, the threat posed by the groups was concentrated in Northern Ireland.

The cross-Border conference would involve intelligence-sharing and the planning of further investigations against dissident groupings engaging in crime to raise the money needed to fund their activities. Acts of terrorism would be foiled by the same cross-Border co-operation.

“When these people plant under-car devices in Belfast or in Derry or when they leave 500lb in places like Forkhill, it’s not about crime in terms of making money, it’s about the threat to society.”

Innocent civilians were not only physically threatened. People also suffered fear and intimidation and policing was threatened.

Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said the only way the Republic could combat terrorism was by joining forces with police forces in Britain and the North.

He said the two-day policing conference provided opportunities for Garda and PSNI officers to share intelligence, plan operations and build personal relationships.

Every resource was being made available to the Garda and PSNI to combat terrorism. “The foot is not being taken of the pedal,” Mr Ahern said.

The Northern Ireland Office security minister Paul Goggins MP said levels of co-operation between all the law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Border had never been better.

“They are working as one to arrest, disrupt and seize goods from organised criminals,” he added.

“This united approach at both political and operational level is producing results and sends a very clear message to organised criminal gangs that there is no hiding place on either side of the Border for their illegal activity.”

Mr Goggins said the use of a car bomb in an attack in Belfast last Friday, which targeted the family of a police officer, underlined the “grim” threat from terrorists for police officers on the front line.