Belfast Telegraph

Closure of 40 border police stations in 19 years puts sharp focus on security

By Allan Preston

Cross-border security after Brexit has been questioned after new figures revealed 42% of police stations on either side have closed since 1998.

Investigative website The Detail published findings which show PSNI and Garda stations within 10 miles of the border have reduced from 92 to 52 since the Good Friday Agreement.

Most closures came north of the border, with 28 police stations shutting compared to 12 in the south.

None of the 11 PSNI border stations are open 24 hours a day, with only eight of the 41 Garda border stations open to the public around the clock.

The main security concerns after Brexit for the 300-mile frontier include a potential for increased smuggling and a rise in dissident republican terrorist activity.

Dr Anthony Soares, deputy director of the Centre for Cross Border Studies, told The Detail the finer details of policing the frontier had not been thought through.

"The border has only been addressed as a high-level principle at the Brexit negotiating table but security and other issues, the nitty-gritty and the day-to-day practicalities that will directly affect the lives of communities on both sides of the border, that has not been fully examined or explored in any meaningful way to date," he said.

He added that reopening border police stations would bring risks.

"If Brexit means reintroducing any infrastructure near or at the border, including police stations, they will become a potential target for attacks," he said.

"To reopen police stations would also have a psychological effect on border communities and reinforce psychologically the presence of the border, and that would be a backward step."

PSNI Superintendent Simon Walls argued modern policing was delivered "by people and not buildings".

"Policing remains a 24 hours, seven days a week operation and we will continue to be there at people's time of need and in emergency situations," he said.

Last September a joint PSNI/Garda assessment of organised crime along the border renewed commitments to work together.

Both forces are now scenario planning for Brexit, with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton promising a new joint report this year.

Police Federation chair Mark Lindsay said funding cuts of £250m since 2011 and a fall in the number of PSNI officers was the real worry.

"There's not nearly enough staff in place to meet current policing demands, let alone deal with a new European frontier after Brexit," he said.

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