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Police are struggling to deal with dissidents, says report

A new report into the security situation in Northern Ireland suggests the police and intelligence services are unprepared, under-funded and lack the skills and knowledge to take on the threat posed by dissident republicans.

The Return of the Militants — by Dr Martyn Frampton of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King's College — states that the threat from dissidents “is now at its greatest level in over a decade”, while the PSNI “has struggled to respond to the challenge posed by dissident republicans”.

The report says senior police officers “have admitted the existence of a skills-gap” as a result of the peace process, which saw the dismantling of a counter-terrorist infrastructure and budgetry cuts.

Dr Frampton also claims that MI5 “appears to have been slow to recognise the scale of the challenge it faces” from terrorists here. It adds that it is “heavily reliant on ‘on-the-ground’ police units and their capacity to feed intelligence material to it — yet these are the same police units that were down sized and to some extent ‘de-skilled’ over the last decade”.

Last night, a former military intelligence officer, who helped prepare MI5 to take over intelligence gathering from the police here told BBC Newsnight: “The overall impression of the handlers was that MI5 weren't up to it... there is a reluctance among people to go to Northern Ireland, spend time there, put the hours in on the ground.”

Another said in the report: “The reality is we were ‘ramping down’ our overall ability to deal with the threat whereas our enemies were ‘ramping up’.”

Dr Frampton’s report concludes: “If the British state wishes to defend and preserve the peace process in Northern Ireland it must accept that the dissidents will not be joining that process. Consequently, to invert the old adage, those who will not join, must eventually be beaten.”

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