Belfast Telegraph

Dissidents are urged to end threats to ex-security forces

By Leona O'Neill

Dissident republicans have issued threats to several former security force personnel in the north west, sparking calls from unionists for an end to their intimidation campaign.

The news was revealed by former soldier and Londonderry DUP councillor Graham Warke, who says dissidents have been 'shadowing' ex-military in the area in recent weeks.

"Dissident republicans involved in issuing threats and using intimidation need to end their campaign," he said.

"Recently there has been 'neighbourhood watch' style activity in Londonderry instigated through dissident republicans. This is nothing like the normal neighbourhood watch that seeks to safeguard innocent people, but appears to be carried out by those who believe they can take the law into their own hands.

"Activity centres around watching and shadowing the whereabouts of members who served in our security forces. It has been extremely alarming and worrying for those involved.

"Unfortunately, this is nothing new. My colleagues, East Londonderry DUP MP Gregory Campbell and Foyle DUP MLA Gary Middleton, have both helped ex-security force members rebuild their lives after they were forced to leave their homes as a result of dissident republican threats over the past few years." Mr Warke said such intimidation should be left in the past. "Dissident republicans are playing games with people's lives," he added.

UUP MLA Doug Beattie said it is a similar picture across Northern Ireland. He said he has been contacted by 12 former soldiers in the last six months who had been and feel threatened.

"I am still, as a former soldier and as a politician, having to check under my car up to three times a day for devices," he said.

"It's a very real problem. I have been contacted by numerous people who are concerned about their security.

"They are concerned about dissident activity and what is going on in Northern Ireland."

Mr Beattie said the security threat is as it was when the Agreement was signed in 1998.

He said: "In recent times there have been people approaching me, approaching my office, even from outside my constituency area and asking for advice over threats from dissidents, or republicans who are not dissidents.

"And I have given them that advice, I have directed them to organisations that can help them. And that is definitely on the increase."

"The MoD are absolutely clear with me as a former soldier or with anyone else who has served in the military or still in it that at this moment in time in Northern Ireland the threat is severe.

"And because that threat is severe we should maintain a reasonably low profile in regards to our previous job in the military or if they are still serving. That has never changed and the MoD put that information out regularly.

"Saying that, 20 years on from the introduction of the peace process there are thousands of people who still feel so threatened that they continue to check under their cars three times as day as I do. And that is very telling."

A spokesperson for the PSNI said it does not discuss the security of individuals.

"However, if we become aware that an individual may need to review their security, we will take steps to inform them accordingly. We will never ignore anything which may put a person at risk. No inference should be drawn from this," he said.

Belfast Telegraph

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