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DUP's Arlene Foster says Belfast gun attack on officer 'work of cowards'

By Steven Alexander

The gun attack on a PSNI officer last night was widely condemned as "the work of cowards" by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

The former first minister said the shooting in north Belfast "is a reminder to us all of the dangers that still exist in Northern Ireland".

"Within our society there still remain those who will use terrorism, threats and violence to advance their warped aims," she said.

"It is a reminder of the threat which still exists in our society and a reminder too of the need to maintain and secure the progress that we have made. It should serve as a focus for us all to stand united against those who would drag Northern Ireland back towards violence.

"A terrorist attack such as this brings back many painful memories to those who have lost loved ones at the hands of terrorists in the past. It raises questions too, with continued activity such as this, how those suspected of such serious terrorist offences can be granted bail."

Mrs Foster said that being a police officer is much more than just a job - "it is a way of life," she said.

"Those who serve in the PSNI, to uphold law and order without fear or favour, are a world away from the cowards who hide in the shadows and target them."

The Secretary of State, James Brokenshire, said he was "shocked and appalled" by the shooting.

"To attack officers who are going about their daily duty protecting the entire community is sickening," he said.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, branded it "an appalling act"

"This attack on the life of an officer is a stark reminder of the determination on the part of terrorists to murder and maim police officers," he said.

"They believe that by causing great grief to a family they are somehow advancing their warped and outdated plan. The wider community will be outraged by this attack on one of their police officers."

Justice Minister Claire Sugden described the attack as "mindless". She added: "The people who carried out this shooting did so with the sole intention of dragging Northern Ireland back to darker days. This is a sickening act which could easily have led to a loss of life."

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds described it as a "despicable act of terrorism".

"This is a deeply disturbing incident which echoes back to the kind of terrorism we used to face on a daily basis," he said.

"We must be mindful how a threat to the future of the political institutions can create a vacuum, which terrorists such as these will seek to fill."

His DUP colleague and Belfast Lord Mayor Brian Kingston said he was "appalled to hear of a shooting incident".

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said his "thoughts are with officer for full recovery and with family and friends".

"We must find a way to end this," he added.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said: "Those involved in the drive-by attempted murder of a police officer are dispicable cowards determined to destroy the peace we all enjoy.

"They represent no-one and offer nothing but misery."

Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said those responsible for the attack "are the same people who are attacking the local community".

"They have absolutely nothing to offer society and need to call a halt to these activities immediately," he added.

SDLP North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon said those responsible were calculating criminals, intent on destabilising society. She said: "This community has rejected the men of violence before and it will do so again. There will be no cover given to those who seek to destabilise our progress and bring mayhem back to our streets."

TUV leader Jim Allister said the attack "is a reminder of the wickedness and criminality of all terrorism, no matter who it is committed by or when".

"Whether it was the Provos vile campaign of decades, or their successors campaign of today, terrorism is never justified," he added.

Policing Board chair Anne Connolly said: "This wasn't just a shocking and utterly senseless attack on an officer but on the whole of the PSNI who are working hard to keep our community safe, and on the wider community."

The Catholic Bishop of Down and Connor Noel Treanor said his prayers were with the injured police officer, his family and the PSNI.

He added: "This attack upon a member of the police force which serves the entire community is alien to the widespread desire, hope and prayer for stability and peace in a shared society."

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan condemned the attack in a tweet: "No excuse for such criminality. I wish the officer a full recovery."

PUP Councillor Julie-Ann Corr-Johnston said: "This was not just an attack on the police - it was an attack on everyone who wants to see Northern Ireland move forward into a peaceful and stable future."

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