Belfast Telegraph

Data reveals increase in bombings

The number of bombings in Northern Ireland last year was higher than a decade earlier, it was revealed.

However, the security situation has improved - with fewer deaths and shootings, according to the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

But with the threat from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process high, the force said 69 bombs exploded or were defused last year. Paramilitaries also used shootings and assaults to impose their form of "justice" in republican and loyalist areas.

Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation of Northern Ireland (PFNI), said: "We are determined that terrorism will not succeed but there is a quid pro quo here, the Government have to ensure that we have the resources and they are failing us."

A PSNI report said: "A significant threat still remains as evidenced by the increase in the number of bombing incidents in 2013/14 compared with 2004/05 and the continued use of paramilitary-style shootings and assaults."

Members of the security forces have been on high alert for some time, with extremists intensifying efforts to kill them.

In March, a bomb was found on a Co Tyrone golf course and an improvised mortar device was recovered in Belfast. Earlier that month, dissidents used a command wire to fire a mortar at a police Land Rover on the Falls Road in West Belfast.

No-one was injured in the attack, but as well as the police patrol, a car containing a Filipino family was caught up in the attack.

The dissident group calling itself the New IRA said it carried out the attack.

Two letter bombs were found at postal sorting offices in Lisburn and Londonderry on 7 March. Both were addressed to Maghaberry Prison, the largest jail in Northern Ireland.

On 13 December last year, a bomb in a sports bag exploded in Belfast's busy Cathedral Quarter. About 1,000 people were affected by the alert, including people out for Christmas dinners, pub-goers and children out to watch Christmas pantos

These statistics do not include s even letter bombs delivered to army careers offices in England which, according to Downing Street, bore the hallmarks of Northern Ireland-related terrorism.

According to the PSNI there were:

:: Sixty nine bombings over the last year to April compared to 48 in 2004/5.

:: Two security-related deaths over the last year.

:: A total of 54 shooting incidents were recorded in 2013/14 compared to 167 in 2004/5. There was an increase in the number of shootings over the last year relative to the previous year, including 19 from April to July this year.

:: During the first four months of the 2014/15 year there have been nine bombing incidents. The number reached a two-year monthly high of 16 in October last year.

Paramilitaries carry out shootings and assaults, normally to the legs, as a form of vigilante justice in some deprived local communities.

There were 28 of these shootings and 42 assaults in 2013/14 compared to 93 shootings and 116 assaults in 2004/5. Republicans were responsible for most of the paramilitary-style shootings and loyalists were blamed in police figures for the majority of assaults.

Last year, 32 people were charged with terrorism offences compared to 77 in 2004/5.

There has been an increase in the amount of explosives seized during the last 12 months to 27 kg , a three-fold rise on the previous year, the statistics revealed. This is mainly due to one very large seizure in March in west Belfast.

The number of firearms recovered during that period has also increased to 63 but ammunition finds decreased to just under 4,000 rounds.

Mr Spence represents rank and file officers and has called for 1,000 extra police to be recruited to help fight the threat.

He said dissident republicans were sophisticated and a great cause of concern.

"The chief constable (George Hamilton) is on record as saying recently that the threat level remains at the upper point of severe, only a notch away from critical so it is a serious situation but I am not surprised by these statistics.

"The other worrying aspect is the resurgence of loyalist paramilitaries, in particular the Ulster Volunteer Force who have been particularly evident in east Belfast."

He said a peacetime force of more than 7,000 had been recommended but warned that the PSNI's numbers were significantly below that, despite renewed recruitment of several hundred new officers and with more public spending cuts to come.

Mr Spence added: "We are stretched.

"We are struggling to hold the line.

"It is very clear that unless there is a realisation by the Justice Department and the Home Office and the Treasury that we need more resources urgently and that there should be no further cuts to the PSNI budget I am worried that ultimately we won't be able to hold the line."

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