Belfast Telegraph

Riots 'won't deter Games visitors'

Rioting over disputed parades has not deterred World Police and Fire Games competitors from travelling to Belfast, a senior police officer said.

Alistair Finlay, Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Assistant Chief Constable, said there had been no cancellations despite some people seeking reassurances after five nights of violence followed the annual Twelfth commemorations.

He said: "We have had a number of inquiries coming from abroad with people looking at some internet or news footage about Northern Ireland where they are a bit concerned.

"Where those have happened we have done outreach in terms of reassurance and where we have had specific questions we have answered that and been able to right that reassurance and people are still coming to the games. My assessment is that if people are not coming to the games it is not because of security."

Around 30 dog handlers from police forces across the UK are to be brought in to help the PSNI while duties such as venue security and searching are carried out by the private security firm Resource.

Mr Finlay, who is in charge of the overall policing operation, said the severe threat from dissident republican terrorists would not hamper the games.

He added: "The security risk and threat to police officers is there - it has been with us for so long now and that is sad and unfortunate but we know our business; we know how to go about our business and we know how to keep our people safe.

"We have been working at this for some time - much longer than we had for the G8 - so, we are confident in the detail and in terms of the operation that we have.

"From the outset we have enough policing to enable people to be able to feel safe, secure and reassured but not so much that people feel intimidated. Should we have a need we will flex and adapt accordingly. It won't be fortress Northern Ireland - that would defeat the purpose of this event. The plan is to make these the friendliest games."

To date 6,682 serving and retired police and firefighters from 67 countries including Brazil, India, Russia and Bermuda have registered for the 10-day event which starts on August 1. Organisers had hoped to attract over 10,000 competitors but have revised the figures down to around 7,000.

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