Belfast Telegraph

Dissident attack on security forces before Christmas highly likely: David Ford

By Noel McAdam

A terrorist attack on the security forces or the public in the run-up to Christmas is "highly likely", Justice Minister David Ford has warned.

But he told the Assembly: "Neither unionist nor nationalist terrorists can be allowed to thwart the progress that Northern Ireland has made in moving forward."

The Alliance leader was answering a question from the DUP's Sydney Anderson, who asked for an assessment of the current level of terrorist activity.

Mr Ford told MLAs the terrorist threat level remains severe "which means that an attack is highly likely. There have been 14 attacks up to October 14 this year (with) police officers, soldiers and prison officers remaining the primary targets. It is clear that the terrorists are not concerned about the safety of anyone".

"Murderous attacks, assaults, shootings, victimisation and intimidation by any paramilitary organisation cannot be justified."

He added he had no doubt there would have been more except for the success of the security forces

Asked what further talks he is to have with police and the NIO before Christmas, Mr Ford said he has regular meetings with Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, adding: "However, the key issue must remain the support of the entire community for the work being done by the PSNI, extending to the provision of intelligence when people have any information that can assist the police and a robust standing together against those, from whatever side, who'd threaten us."

The SDLP's Alban Maginness asked that given the danger from terrorists, especially dissident republicans, whether Mr Ford agreed that people involved in demonstrations and public protests "divert resources".

Mr Ford replied: "It is clear that, when police officers are required in large numbers to deal with public disorder and a variety of demonstrations, it diverts officers from carrying out other duties", but said he wouldn't stop at dissident republicans.

"It is clear that dissident unionists are also carrying out similar attacks and seeking to impose their will on local communities."

Earlier at question time in the Assembly, Mr Ford also warned further street protests in Belfast city centre could be "devastating" for businesses.

QUOTES

"It is clear that, when police officers are required in large numbers to deal with public disorder and a variety of demonstrations, it diverts officers from carrying out other duties."

"It is clear that dissident unionists are also carrying out similar attacks and seeking to impose their will on local communities."

David Ford

Belfast Telegraph

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