Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 23 August 2014

Call for new effort to end violence

Margaret Ritchie
Security was tight as police erected barriers by the roadside
Protesters staged a silent demonstration at an earlier march on the Ardoyne Road

Fresh efforts should be made to end dissident republican violence in Northern Ireland that may include talking to armed groups, it has been claimed.

And while Government again denied it was in talks with dissidents, Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he would not see any such discussions as a betrayal.

Leader of the nationalist SDLP Margaret Ritchie also called for a review of intelligence gathering on dissidents who on Saturday planted a bomb in Lurgan, Co Armagh, which was aimed at police, but injured three young children. She called for an end to MI5 control of intelligence, which she said should revert to police.

"It is time for everyone to face up to some inconvenient political truths about this violence. It is now very clear that MI5 is not up to the task of leading intelligence-gathering in the north," she said. "The SDLP believes we need an aggressive, high-profile, all-Ireland intelligence-gathering operation based on the bond of trust which has grown between police and public."

Mr Baggott said any efforts to talk to dissidents would have to come with strong conditions attached, but he said ending violence was more than just a security issue.

"We are arresting and charging more than ever," he told Irish broadcaster RTE, where he described cross-border police co-operation as "top class".

"But clearly there has never been a 100% intelligence picture. What we have to do is relentlessly pursue them."

The comments came after a two week period blighted by repeated dissident attacks which have narrowly avoided causing multiple deaths.

Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson and deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness condemned overnight petrol bomb attacks on police near the scene of Saturday's explosion in Lurgan.

A device exploded in a wheelie bin as police searched part of the town following a vague bomb warning that is now believed to have been an attempt to lure officers into a trap. Two 12-year-old children and a two-year-old child suffered minor injuries from flying debris. Police said it was a miracle they were not more seriously hurt.

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