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PSNI are wary of ‘severe’ dissident republican threat

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

PSNI are wary of ‘severe’ dissident republican threat thumbnailMr Stephen Martin

THE Assistant Chief Constable of the PSNI has spoken about the continuing threat posed by violent dissident republicans.

Mr Stephen Martin was speaking at a public evidence session of the House of Commons Select Committee on Exiting the European Committee, held in the Armagh City hotel last Thursday.

"There is a severe threat, which means that a attack is highly likely," said Mr Martin.

"There have been a number of national security attacks in Northern Ireland this year. Whilst the dissident republican groups that we're currently facing do not have the capability or capacity that the provisional movement would have had during the troubles - they have demonstrated their ability to kill people."

Mr Martin also said that should there be an "infrastructure" put in place to police a so called hard border post Brexit, then it is "highly foreseeable" that that would be exploited by such groups.

"I think if there was infrastructure...whether that be buildings and people that re-emphasise the border in that physical, tangible, visible, I think it's highly foreseeable that dissident republicans would seek to take action against that, and that could include attacking the buildings and people."

The Deputy Chief Constable, Mr Drew Harris, having been asked whether the PSNI had prepared for the various different Brexit scenarios - in the context of what each might mean for losing the ability to cooperate with EU partners, and what impact that might have on the security of the island of Ireland, replied: "We are engaged in three pieces of work. On a national level, we are engaged with the NCA (National Crime Agency) and the National Police Chief's Council around preparing in effect for Brexit.

"So, there's work there on cross-jurisdictional powers.

"Also then we're engaged with our own Department of Justice here in Belfast around policy, legislative operation and resource implications.

"But in particular then, we've also commissioned work jointly with the acting Commissioner of An Garda Siochana around the implications of the UK's departure [from the EU].

"I think as a police officer - I'm not wishing to stray into any sort of political domain - we are unsure of what the landscape's going to look like going forward.

"But we know that certain things are going to change and our responsibility and An Garda's responsibility is to do our very best to maintain the safety and security of everyone on this island."

Mr Harris said that the force was "firmly focussed" on the security situation, and spoke about how the PSNI interacts with its southern counterparts.

"We have a very good working relationship with An Garda Siochana," he said.

"But a working relationship has to be backed up with legislation and policy which allows things like information sharing, allows intelligence to be shared, allows, in effect, evidence also to be shared quickly so that investigations can move on at pace.

"So those are the things that we wish to address."

The Deputy Chief Constable also spoke about the inter-governmental treaty, dating from 2002, which affords police to police cooperation on the island of Ireland, and which he said will remain post Brexit.

"We want to make sure that the provisions which will still exist are used to the full," he added.

"And that's around police to police cooperation and what we're very clear about is that the border area in particular doesn't feel that they have become less safe, that they could be subject to crime, and in effect people could use the border a means to obstruct justice.

"We have worked very hard over the last 15 to 20 years to increase people's safety and respect for the rule of law and order and lawfulness in those areas, and we don't want to lose that ground.

"And that's why we're working closely with An Garda Siochana in respect of this."

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