Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr was today under fire from both unionist and nationalist politicians after insisting a shoot-to-kill policy against dissident republicans would be widely accepted.
The former junior minister said police should be able to “deploy ruthlessness” in wiping out dissidents before a member of the security forces is shot dead.
But fellow Policing Board member Basil McCrea said Mr Paisley’s remarks were “very, very detrimental” and his position on the board “must be very suspect”.
And SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly said it was difficult to think of anything which would help the dissident cause more than a shoot-to-kill policy. Sinn Fein’s Daithi McKay also warned the North Antrim MLA against attempting to appeal to the “lowest common denominator”.
The remarks are likely to be raised at the next meeting of the board early next month. The board has already condemned Saturday night’s rocket attack in Lisnaskea in which dissidents used Semtex and directly led to Mr Paisley’s comments.
"Sooner or later there will be a murder of a police officer unless the police are able to deploy ruthlessness in tracking down and wiping out these dissident members," Mr Paisley said.
"I believe the community will accept such measures and if dissidents are shot on sight, the community will accept that it is a necessary use of lethal force to prevent dissident republicanism from growing.”
Mr Paisley Jnr also called on the Executive to review the situation. “Given the seriousness of this most recent murder attempt, I believe the Executive ought to ensure that a full discussion on the security situation must take place with a view to ensuring every encouragement is given to the police and Army in the eradication of dissident republicans," he said.
But Ulster Unionist Mr McCrea said: “It is very unhelpful and difficult to see why Ian jnr is stirring things up apart from trying to remind people he is still here. But he has overstepped the mark and his position on the Board must be very suspect.”
Sinn Fein board member Daithi McKay said: "Clearly Ian Paisley Jnr hasn’t learnt anything from the history of the last 40 years. This is the type of corner boy approach to politics we have come to expect from Paisley Og (junior). What unionist leaders, and in particular the DUP, need to demonstrate is they’re prepared to share power with nationalists and republicans on the basis of equality rather than appealing to lowest common denominator."
SDLP board member Dolores Kelly said: “Some people shoot from the hip, others from the mouth. It seems there are two groups of people who want to drive us back into the past, the ex-provo dissidents and people like Ian Paisley Junior who are still fighting their rearguard action against accountable policing in a shared society.”
"There is no support among law-abiding people for shoot-to-kill in the past, present or future. It is precisely because we drew a line under that sort of so-called policing that we were able to win such wide cross-community support for a new beginning in policing.
"It is difficult to think of anything which would serve the dissident cause better than a shoot-to-kill policy. It is also disturbing that we have anyone involved in policing at any level who can’t work that out for himself."
Renegade republicans have been blamed for seven other murder attempts on officers in the last year.
Yesterday police chiefs revealed that the explosives used in Saturday’s rocket attack contained Semtex originally owned by the Provisional IRA.
Two officers were on patrol on Main Street, Lisnaskea, while a third was in a nearby police vehicle when a man stepped from a white Ford Escort and aimed an improvised rocket launcher at them.
They dived for cover and escaped after suffering shock and minor injuries when the device failed to detonate.
Mr Paisley has called for an inquiry to establish how the dissidents got their hands on the powerful Czech-made explosive and if they have access to more.
Semtex, much of it secured from General Gaddafi’s Libya, was one of the main weapons employed by the IRA when it was active. The Provisionals claimed to have decommissioned its arsenal in 2005.
Mr Paisley said: "There are some crumbs of comfort that the weapons deployment has been botched, or else, more likely, dissidents have been infiltrated and at the last moment the explosives undermined and therefore lives saved.
"However, we cannot always rely upon infiltration and treachery within the ranks of the dissidents to undermine their activity."