Belfast Telegraph

Baggott: Dissidents out of touch

Dissident republican violence will not be thwarted in the short term but police are approaching a "tipping point" in the fight against the extremists, Northern Ireland's Chief Constable has said.

Matt Baggott said while he remained a realist about the current threat posed, particularly to his officers, he was optimistic the authorities are getting the upper hand.

Assessing the potential of the dissidents almost a fortnight on from the murder of Constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh, Mr Baggott said they were becoming more reckless because they felt increasingly isolated.

He acknowledged they were dangerous terrorists capable of wreaking destruction but insisted they were living in a fantasy world of "false enemies, old bigotries and hatred".

The cross community reaction to the Catholic policeman's murder, powerfully demonstrated by a series of symbolic gestures at his funeral, proved the dissidents were out of touch with the reality of Northern Ireland today.

"I actually think they live almost like kids in video games," he said. "They are so in the screen that they have forgotten what reality is. Unfortunately their video game is a reality, but it is false one. They are in there and they are plotting and planning and seeing this world which doesn't actually exist any more; incredibly sad but incredibly dangerous.

"My fear is the more that they get isolated, which they need to be, I've seen signs of a greater recklessness and that's where I think the public support has to come in because their space and the condemnation and their ability to manoeuvre are getting closed in. I think they are getting more and more isolated."

There was no evidence of an increase in officers wanting to leave the PSNI in the wake of Constable Kerr's murder, he said.

Asked if the dissident threat would ever go away, he said: "I don't think that's something that's going to happen in the short term. But I am a great believer that you get to a tipping point and I think we are getting towards a tipping point where there will be no going back.

"The political institutions are working, there is great confidence in policing that is growing and I think policing is being accepted so are we getting toward a tipping point? I think we could be."

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