Ford: Both sides targeting police
Both loyalist and republican terrorists are targeting police officers, it has been confirmed.
Justice Minister David Ford told the Assembly how members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) were facing significant threats from extremists on both sides of the sectarian divide.
The outlawed Ulster Volunteer Force has been widely blamed for orchestrating much of the rioting connected to the ongoing Union flag dispute, which has left more than 100 police officers injured.
Loyalist paramilitaries are also believed to have been behind the attempted murder of a female police officer whose patrol car was petrol bombed in east Belfast last month.
Mr Ford said: "There is a significant threat to police officers which is sadly being witnessed on the streets of predominantly, but not exclusively, east Belfast for six weeks.
"There was also the very direct attack on the life of a female police officer sitting in a police car outside the constituency office of Naomi Long, Judith Cochrane and Chris Lyttle. That is an indication of the threats which they are facing, facing from both dissident republicans and loyalist paramilitaries. That is a threat which should be stopped by all sections of the community."
Last month dissident republicans planted a bomb below the car of a serving PSNI officer living in east Belfast. The policeman discovered the device as he prepared to take his wife and children out for Sunday lunch. Dissidents have also been responsible for the murders of Catholic PSNI recruit Ronan Kerr in Omagh in 2011 and Constable Stephen Carroll in Craigavon during 2009.
Mr Ford said: "The threat from dissident republicans remains severe and it is clear that police officers are being targeted. There are a small number of people determined to take Northern Ireland back to the past. They pose a significant threat. We have seen the recklessness and willingness to endanger life."
The minister also revealed that the ongoing street protests, which have cost in the region of £7 million to date, were putting the policing budget under severe pressure.
He added: "There is no doubt that there are severe pressures on the police service with dealing on the one hand with the threat which saw the threat to the life of a police officer not far from here (Stormont) shortly before Christmas and on the other hand the serious street disturbances. There is an obligation on each of us to do all we can to get people off the streets."