PSNI: Dissident terror alerts will not derail our recruitment drive
Dissident republicans have been warned they will not win in their attempts to stop police recruitment.
The PSNI confirmed last night that familiarisation events would go ahead today despite security alerts that caused major disruption at venues in Belfast, Omagh and Londonderry yesterday.
The Foyle Bridge in Londonderry was closed for a time as security force personnel carried out a controlled explosion after a suspicious object was discovered close to the city's Waterfoot Hotel. It was later declared a hoax.
The Millfield and Titanic campuses of the Belfast Metropolitan College in Belfast were evacuated, as was Omagh's Strule Arts Centre.
In Londonderry, a PSNI event at the Waterfoot Hotel has been postponed until next Saturday to prevent disruption to a wedding due to be held there today.
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said: "These are shameless acts that demonstrate no regard for the people living and working in these areas and have been designed to disrupt communities.
"We have been working closely with the venues who are hosting the events and the two planned for Omagh and Belfast tomorrow will go ahead as scheduled. The Derry event has been postponed until next Saturday, October 17."
Police remain at the scene in Derry and the alerts in Omagh and Belfast looked set to continue into the night, he said.
DUP MLA Gary Middleton described the alerts as "an orchestrated attack", while Ulster University policing expert Dr Jonny Byrne said: "These alerts were clearly an attempt to destabilise the peace process by breaking the link between the community and the police.
"It is about discouraging the public, especially Catholics, from joining the police, and therefore trying to make the PSNI less representative of the communities within which they serve," he added. It is not the first time dissident republicans have targeted PSNI recruitment events.
Last year, the Everglades Hotel in Derry was firebombed ahead of a police recruitment drive. But the hotel owner and PSNI agreed that the right thing to do was to go ahead with the event.
Recruitment to the PSNI was reopened last May after a three-year freeze. The first two phases of the recruitment drive saw thousands of people applying. Almost 800 people submitted an application form to join the police ranks in the first 24 hours of this latest campaign.
DUP Policing Board member Jonathan Craig said the response to the recruitment campaign "is a positive sign that (dissident republicans) will not be successful in dragging us back".
He added: "These security alerts are another demonstration of those who want to drag Northern Ireland back into violence and fear. They want to spread that fear among people considering a career within the police service, but we can all stand together to make sure they do not succeed."
Sinn Fein MLA Barry McElduff said the actions of dissident republicans "will achieve nothing, but cause great inconvenience to the local communities. Those behind this campaign need to explain these actions. To date they have failed to do so, as they are wrapped up in their own destructive agenda."
UUP MLA Ross Hussey said the actions of the dissidents "smack of fascism".
"They need to realise the year is 2015 and the law-abiding majority in Northern Ireland have moved on while this small but evil minority try to drag us back," he added.
The SDLP North Belfast MLA Alban Maginness said those responsible "stand against the will of the people of Northern Ireland who wish to see a representative police service working for all of the people here".