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Police cuts of concern to us all

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 21/09/2015

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Given the amount of headlines reporting widespread paramilitary and other crimes, it is disturbing to be told that the PSNI numbers continue to fall short of the recommended number required for operational resilience.

In today's Belfast Telegraph, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin reveals that the force is still 180 officers short, and that the gap in numbers is being made up by overtime.

He assures us that the gaps are being plugged, but it is a matter of concern that these gaps exist at all. Despite Mr Martin's upbeat analysis, the public realises that a reduced PSNI is by no means an assurance of our maximum security.

The police numbers have been massively downgraded since the height of the Troubles, and the PSNI, like other organisations, has to take its share of cuts in times of need.

However, there should be concern that we are not downgrading our police numbers too far. Proper security cannot be provided on the cheap.

Recent events, including the discovery of the cache of Semtex, arms and ammunition in west Belfast, and the murder of the two leading republican paramilitaries, have underlined how fragile the peace process actually is.

As our politicians gather at Stormont today for further talks, they should remember what is at stake for the people of Northern Ireland.

In policing, as well as in education, health and other important matters, our best chance for permanent stability still lies with the ability of our local ministers to make important decisions about funding to provide for vital services.

The Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, has outlined yet again that the opportunity for progress must not be squandered. The politicians must stop putting party interests before those of the people.

Hopefully, the Secretary of State's warning will not fall on deaf ears this time, because the people of this province have suffered through political deadlock for far too long.

Certainly, they are entitled to demand action rather than more grandstanding from those whom we elected to help bring them peace and prosperity. The time has long gone for political slogans to divert us from the need to make hard decisions at Stormont.

The electorate is in no mood to be fobbed off again, at this vital stage of our history.

Belfast Telegraph

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