Dissident threat to PSNI highlighted


A SENIOR PSNI officer was forced to pull out of a major drugs conference in Belfast yesterday because of the threat to his police officers from dissident republicans.

Assistant Chief Constable Drew Harris, who is in charge of anti-crime operations, was due to address the High Society?conference in the Europa Hotel, organised by the Association of Chief Police Officers of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Tim Hollis, chief constable of Humberside police, explained to delegates - including Garda representatives - that Mr Harris could not attend due to an increased threat from republican dissidents. "There is a heightened security threat for colleagues from the PSNI. Drew Harris has had to attend to that. Some of the threats from the past still remain," he said.

A PSNI spokesman explained that the threat was not specifically against Mr Harris or the conference, but that Mr Harris was required to deal with matters relating to dissident republicans.

PSNI chief constable Sir Hugh Orde has warned on several occasions in recent weeks that dissidents are determined to kill a PSNI officer.

Garda and PSNI drugs squad officers Patrick Byrne and Garry Clarke, in a joint presentation on policing the drugs problem on the island of Ireland, told the conference of how there was a strong level of co-operation between the two forces in tackling drugs gangs "who didn't recognise the Border".

They said southeast Asian gangs were organising cannabis factories in Northern Ireland - 79 of which had been discovered, leading to 91 arrests - and of how Ireland was also being used to smuggle drugs into Britain and Europe.

PSNI drugs squad chief Det Chief Insp Clarke said the end of the Troubles had created greater opportunities for drugs gangs to operate, with more Border road openings and less Border security.