Belfast Telegraph

Friday 11 July 2014

Officers ‘ashamed’ over PSNI Newry bomb alert response

The PSNI are using “spin” to deflect attention from the lack of manpower and experience in the organisation, a serving officer has claimed.

The officer who works in the southern command district, which takes in Newry where a 500lb bomb was discovered last Friday, also slammed the PSNI’s response to the alert as “amateurish and botched”.

Hundreds of motorists were able to drive past the bomb which was packed into a transit van and abandoned in an underpass below the main Belfast to Dublin dual carriageway.

Yesterday, Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson defended the handling of the alert claiming the operation had been hampered by “ambiguous warnings”.

However, some of the rank and file have slammed the security authorities accusing them of “burying their heads in the sand” when tackling the dissident threat.

“Officers on the ground are ashamed,” one officer said. “It was an amateurish, botched job because of the lack of manpower.

“The first warning that came in said a bomb had been left on the Berliss Road. Any officer working in that area knows where the Berliss Road is. And, anyone with half a brain would have seen the transit van, laden down in the back and with the southern registration plates, and would have known immediately it was the suspect vehicle. The first officer who saw that should have sealed it off and stayed to make sure no cars could drive past it; not gone back to the station to get cones.

“Alasdair Robinson blamed the public for moving cones. But, that’s just spin and the boys on the ground are angry. What would he have said if that bomb had gone off? How would they spin it then?

“The authorities are sitting up in their ivory towers and they haven’t a clue what is going on.

“There have been that many near-misses in the area that it would scare you.

“I fear it is going to take two or three bodies before they wake up and realise,” added the officer.

“I would say these dissidents have the same capability as the UVF had in their heyday, and look at the devastation they inflicted.”

Meanwhile, in a statement, the PSNI rejected the criticism.

“Police in Newry thwarted a major terrorist attack and prevented a 500lb device reaching its intended target and causing devastation,” a spokeswoman said.

“E district, which includes Newry city, has received an extra 130 officers and released over 40 officers from back-office support

“The PSNI has a significant number of officers who are young in service. This is not a new development and neither is it unique to this force.”

Story so far

Dissident republicans are being blamed for abandoning a 500lb car bomb on the main Belfast to Dublin road. Police were criticised after hundreds of motorists were able to drive alongside the bomb after tape and cones were removed. Police have since said they are reviewing their signage. The alert came a week after Constable Ronan Kerr was killed by a bomb in Omagh. Earlier this week DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt warned that the police were “sleepwalking” into a major catastrophe.

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