Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Minister must consider safer PSNI college site

WITH the news of further delays to the planned community safety college, which will cost the taxpayer in the region of £157m, I urge David Ford to rethink this costly gamble.

The original decision to situate the college at Desertcreat, near Cookstown, was taken at a time when we faced a much lower threat from dissident republicans.

Given that this threat has escalated dramatically over the last few years, I feel it is time the justice minister and the Executive reconsidered this decision.

It is widely accepted that officers are at their most vulnerable when travelling to and from their workplace, so to site the college in an isolated area that is fast becoming a hotbed of dissident activity is not just foolhardy, but reckless.

Having spoken to many officers, there is a concern that this decision is putting lives at risk in order to appease Sinn Fein. To put lives at risk in of aid political expediency is totally unacceptable. Officers, frankly, deserve better than to be used as pawns.

Further, as one cannot predict how this current terrorist campaign may escalate, we could reach a point in the not too distant future where the college could be deemed too high a security risk.

If this were to happen, we would face the prospect of a £157m white elephant and we – the taxpayer – would be forced to fork out again to build a new college in a safer location. I would urge the minister to look again at alternative sites, such as the Maze.

NEIL McNICKLE

NI21

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