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‘Be realistic’ over police station closures, Baggott is urged

By Deborah McAleese

Chief Constable Matt Baggott has been urged to “get his finger on the pulse of reality” and stop closing police stations at a time when the dissident terrorist threat is continuing to heighten.

The warning came from chair of the Justice Committee Lord Morrow as he urged the PSNI chief to reverse his decision to shut police stations in border areas where dissident republicans are particularly active.

Lord Morrow made the comments after the Chief Constable said there is no change in plan to sell Bessbrook PSNI station and that Newtownhamilton will become the main station for the south Armagh area.

The closure of police stations is part of the normalisation of policing here and a decision to sell off 26 stations, including Bessbrook, was made by the Policing Board last year to free up £5m for “frontline services”.

Lord Morrow said: “The approval to close Bessbrook PSNI station was taken in 2009 and the situation has changed dramatically since then, as testified by recent events.

“Therefore continuance of this move is a worrying development at this time. Presently, with increased dissident republican terrorist threat, the Chief Constable should be retaining PSNI stations and not seeking closures, particularly in border areas.

“The Chief Constable needs to get his finger on the pulse of the reality which exists in Northern Ireland once and for all. Dissident terrorists must be thwarted and common sense tells us that will require increased security for citizens. This cannot be achieved by station closures.”

However, the Chief Constable has continually insisted that he is confident there are enough resources to deal with the terrorist threat and still deliver peace time policing.

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