Belfast Telegraph

Police 'move out over terror fears'

More than 30 police officers have been forced out of their homes in the last 18 months over fears of dissident republican murder bids, their representative body has claimed.

In the same period the 32 officers and their families have moved, there have been more than 200 gun and bomb attacks in Northern Ireland, many of them against policemen and women, the Police Federation's annual conference in Belfast heard.

Federation chairman Terry Spence said the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) needed 1,000 more officers to help wage the battle against the violent extremists, who he said now numbered around 650.

He urged Stormont leaders to make the fight against dissident republicans, not economic recovery, the top priority of government.

"It is not the economy that needs to be put at the heart of the programme for government: it is the defeat and elimination of the cancer of terrorism," he said.

"When terrorism is ended the economy will be reinvigorated, the paramilitary stranglehold on communities will be broken, civic life will recover and maybe then we will have community policing for real."

Commenting on the prominent role of the UVF in last week's riot in east Belfast, Mr Spence also called for tough action against the loyalist paramilitaries.

"We cannot tolerate paramilitary groups creating public havoc because they think they have no voice in how Northern Ireland is governed. They have exactly the same access to the ballot box and opportunity to stand for election as the rest of us."

The chairman began his address at the La Mon hotel by paying tribute to Constable Ronan Kerr, murdered by a dissident republican car bomb in Omagh in March. He said: "Our colleague Ronan is a noble example of the latest in a series of courageous officers who have paid the supreme sacrifice for upholding the rule of law."

He then went on to detail to the audience, which included Stormont Justice minister David Ford and Secretary of State Owen Paterson, the ongoing threats to PSNI officers.

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