Investigation to be held into withdrawal of NI ports border control staff

Police Service of Northern Ireland has said there was no evidence of credible threats

An investigation is to be held into the withdrawal of workers at Border Control Posts (BCPs) at Larne and Belfast ports.

Physical checks on goods of animal origin were temporarily suspended due to concerns for the safety of staff employed by Mid and East Antrim Council and the Department of Agriculture following the appearance of graffiti referencing heightened tensions around the Northern Ireland protocol. Checks have now resumed.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has said there was no evidence of credible threats, and questions have been raised by unions and some political parties over the decision-making process which led to the withdrawal of staff.

On Thursday, Assembly members on the Stormont agriculture committee voted by a majority of five to three to hold an inquiry into circumstances of the suspension of checks.


It was supported by MLAs from Sinn Féin, the SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party, and opposed by the DUP.

The Ulster Unionist representative abstained.

The Sinn Féin MLA Philip McGuigan, who proposed the investigation, told the committee it was clear the matter warranted “further investigation and scrutiny” and some of the information provided “simply wasn’t true.”

Mr McGuigan added: “At a time when the DUP were under political pressure as a result of their disastrous Brexit position the DUP made this decision, so I don’t think anyone could be blamed for thinking, after hearing all of what we have heard and what has been reported, that the decision to withdraw staff was a calculated and concocted political decision by a DUP minister and others.”

The DUP MLA William Irwin said the safety of staff was their priority and cautioned those who he said were "playing a bit of politics."

He warned that “we need to be careful that we don’t hype this and create a problem when this looks to be resolved, saying that staff were now back in work and “the more we hype this up, it actually is dangerous.

“Those that would be involved in intimidation and that type of thing, the more this is hyped up it plays into their hands,” he said.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times