Belfast Telegraph

Brexit protests could be exploited by 'sinister forces' warns former senior PSNI officer

A Brexit protest sign on the border
A Brexit protest sign on the border

A former senior PSNI officer has warned that protests planned for the Irish border the day after Brexit could be exploited by "sinister forces".

Allan Jones is the security advisor and director of Transformational Policing Associates (TPA).

He previously served in the RUC and later the PSNI for nearly 30 years.

During that time he was the head of public order training, responsible for the delivery of training to all police officers and support staff in the PSNI in all areas of conflict management.

He was awarded the Queen's Police Medal in 2007 for distinguished service in dealing with and resolving violent widespread public disorder.

The Border Communities Against Brexit group is planning a number of protests at crossing points on the Irish border the day after Brexit on March 29.

Mr Jones said that the protests could cause widespread disruption in Northern Ireland.

He pointed out that around 12,500 Ulster rugby fans will be heading to the Aviva Stadium in Dublin for the quarter finals of the Heineken Champions Cup on March 30.

Based on previous experiences, Mr Jones predicts widespread disruption to cross border travel is possible, with a significant knock-on effect to traffic, rail and a myriad of other security issues that will impact on day-to-day policing activity.

He said that while BCAC had a "right to peaceful protest", the border protests could be "‘hijacked' by more sinister forces with different intentions and codes of behaviour".

Former PSNI officer Allan Jones.
Former PSNI officer Allan Jones.

“While the BCAB is intent on mounting a series of legitimate peaceful protests, businesses and private citizens must take into account that there is a real likelihood that other groups or individuals who do not share the same democratic values may use the occasion as an excuse to act in ways that are less peaceful,” Mr Jones said

“While many protest groups begin with the best intentions at heart, they often draw the attention of extremists who either see this as an opportunity to ‘piggyback' their views onto mainstream agenda or a way to justify their illegal activities.

“Some protesters may push the boundaries of peaceful protest to what is often called ‘civil disobedience’. Protest by its very nature is an emotive subject and if mishandled (or if deliberately provocative) can result in violent behaviour."

Mr Jones said that groups may encourage violence to have it caught on camera and said that police should be prepared for an overreaction.

“As the spectrum of groups that join the protest increases, it is not beyond the balance of probabilities that one or more may be willing to take criminal action to achieve their aims," he said.

“The continued attacks on the Belfast to Dublin train link, especially at Lurgan, show that even hoax bombs (and hoax bomb calls) can seriously disrupt border crossings."

The international security expert said that with Brexit looming, people should be prepared for public protests.

“The countdown clock to Brexit Day is running out fast and the public need to be informed as to what to expect and how they should plan for what may become widespread disruption right across Northern Ireland on March 30 and maybe beyond,” Mr Jones said.

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