Belfast Telegraph

Terror threat makes PSNI cuts 'lunacy' claim critics

By Victoria Leonard

Cuts to PSNI numbers at a time when Northern Ireland is facing a terror threat on two fronts have been described as "absolute lunacy" with the potential to lead to "loss of life".

The comments come just three days after a 4kg stash of TNT was seized by gardai in Dublin on Friday. Police in the Republic said they believed that it had been destined for Northern Ireland.

The following day, seven people were killed and 48 injured in a terror attack on London Bridge.

The attacks came a fortnight after Chief Constable George Hamilton announced that the PSNI faces £20m in funding cuts this year. Officer numbers are set to drop by 138 to 6,700 over the next year.

A review in 2014 concluded that a minimum of 7,000 officers were needed for a resilient force.

Mark Lindsay, chairman of the Police Federation NI which represents rank-and-file officers here, said that the cuts could prove "disastrous for society".

"I wouldn't rule out the potential for it to cost lives, whether members of the public or police officers, through incidents like assaults or terror attacks," he said.

"The threat has been severe for the last eight years, with an attack highly likely. Without even adding an Islamic terror threat, the dissident terror threat puts police under a great deal of pressure.

"We need to look at more investment and we need to ring-fence the PSNI budget to put it on a solid foundation."

Meanwhile, UUP candidate and Military Cross recipient Doug Beattie described the PSNI as already "under-resourced" and said it must be strengthened.

"I believe that cutting the resources of the police force in today's environment is absolute lunacy - we should be investing in the police force, its capabilities and needs," he said.

"There are two very distinct terrorist threats and they can cross between borders and strike at the soft underbelly of any country. We should not be cutting police numbers."

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