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PSNI handle bomb alert every week as dissidents determined to kill again

By Luke Barnes

Published 28/09/2016

Murder victim Adrian Ismay
Murder victim Adrian Ismay

Police are dealing with a terrorist bomb alert every week, shocking figures have revealed.

So far this year, police and Army bomb disposal teams have been called out to alerts more than 40 times.

The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, warned that the combination of rising crime rates and persistent terrorist threats was placing "an extreme burden on an under-strength police force."

Policing Board member Ross Hussey claimed there was a "blaseness" about bomb scares and said he was concerned another life could soon be lost.

Just last year, a booby-trap bomb killed prison officer Adrian Ismay.

According to the latest police statistics obtained by the Belfast Telegraph, from January to August, police were called out to 39 bombing incidents.

Out of those call-outs, 19 (49%) were classified as "credible threats". The remainder were hoax calls.

Last year, 51% of the incidents were classed as "viable devices", compared to 39% in 2014.

UUP MLA Ross Hussey MLA warned that as terrorists became more adept at making bombs, the possibility that one would kill continued to increase.

He explained: "There is a blaseness about bomb scares today. People are just not as security conscious as they once were.

"You have groups that still think they're going to bomb their way to a united Ireland, and it's just not going to happen. Loyalist or nationalist, both need to get off the back of the people."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation in Northern Ireland, said that the figures revealed the reality of the security situation here.

"Our threat level is severe in Northern Ireland and these worrying figures, not only of viable but of hoax devices, bear this out," he added.

"Thirty-seven viable devices last year shouts of the distance we have still to travel in Northern Ireland before we can truly say we have achieved genuine peace and a normal society.

"The reality is that viable and hoax devices show the determination of some people to disrupt daily life and, wore still, attempt to murder."

Mr Lindsay also said the imminent risk of any potential bomb threat meant that officers did not have "the luxury of being immediately able to determine which are viable and which are hoax devices".

He added: "The PSNI budget has been subjected to savage cuts with the likelihood of more on the way.

"The necessary police response to any incident takes away from resources needed for frontline policing."

Mr Lindsay had previously said that the combination of rising crime rates and persistent terrorist threats were placing an extreme burden on an under-strength police force.

He added: "We're currently 600 below the minimum peacetime number recommended by Patten.

"We have to prevent the migration of dissident republican activity to the mainland, and to do that we need more officers on the ground.

"People involved in this type of activity are disconnected from reality and society.

"Our officers have achieved notable successes against the terrorist groupings, but there can be no let-up in that effort until terrorists come to the realisation that they are relics of a bygone era and that Northern Ireland has left them behind."

Police officers have previously spoken to the Belfast Telegraph of their concerns about being under-resourced.

One of them said: "The pressure we are under is immense. Several potentially deadly attacks have been stopped, but, unfortunately, it's only a matter of time before someone else is killed."

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