Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Northern Ireland police chief moves officers to tackle 'severe' dissident threat

The Chief Constable has transferred more officers from desk bound duties to patrol duties following last week’s undercar bomb attack in East Belfast.

The move comes at a time when senior PSNI officers are describing the threat from dissident republicans as “severe”.

Matt Baggott confirmed the development when he met a DUP delegation on Friday and he told Peter Robinson that he may introduce agency staff to deal with office tasks to free up even more officers from administration duties in the coming weeks.

The grim scenario of increasingly sophisticated attacks by dissident republicans against police officers and their families has elevated the threat level above the post Massereene attack concerns.

Deputy Chief Constable Judith Gillespie confirmed the increased numbers involved in terrorist attacks when she revealed last week that it is

estimated that there are now 200 dissidents involved in units similar to the Provisionals’ four strong active service units.

Senior PSNI figures have admitted that there has been a worrying ‘slippage’ of experienced Provos from the Sinn Fein/IRA fold to the dissident groups in recent months.

This has been reflected in the sophisticated bomb found in Forkhill and last week’s deadly undercar bomb device which exploded in Kingsdale Park, a short distance from the PSNI HQ at Knock.

The PSNI is to buy a second helicopter to help in the fight against dissidents.

There is speculation that it will be another Eurocopter 145 which would be kitted out to ferry specialist units to tackle dissidents in border areas.

Some Policing Board members have been demanding another 145 to ferry units from Belfast to anywhere in the province within 20 minutes.

Delays before units could be deployed to recent incidents in Forkhill, Meigh and other areas around the border has starkly exposed the PSNI’s operational shortcomings.

The PSNI’s Eurocopter is crammed with state of the art electronic surveillance, communication and listening devices and monitors which takes up most of its cabin room.

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