Belfast Telegraph

MP Woodward in terror threat warning over PSNI cuts

Labour frontbencher Shaun Woodward urged the Government today to save Northern Ireland's police from the brunt of public sector cuts, warning of terrorists' "deranged and psychotic intent" to kill.

The shadow Northern Ireland secretary said the coalition should understand that "special circumstances" were required.

In a speech to Labour's annual gathering in Manchester, Mr Woodward also warned ministers not to rule out inquiries into the "terrible events" of the Troubles.

He told party members: "In fixing the Comprehensive Spending Review, the Chancellor (George Osborne) must give particular care to the needs of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).

"I do not doubt that greater efficiency can be found by the PSNI - just as it can by my own police in Merseyside or any force in this country.

"But the threat from dissidents, their campaign of violence and murder is a real and present danger for the brave men and women of the PSNI and the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Woodward said dissident activity in the province had grown over the last three years - with more than 30 attacks or attempted attacks this year so far, compared with 20 last year.

"These men and women are ruthless," he said.

"Give them, the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, the chance and they will kill. Their deranged and psychotic intent is to murder - destroy the peace and destroy the politics.

"Yesterday, their targets were mainly security forces - especially the PSNI. Today their targets are broader; their reckless intent puts at risk the lives of the public."

He added: "The new coalition Government in Westminster must recognise, as did we, the legacy of the Troubles means special circumstances in Northern Ireland. Special because of the past and special because of the present."

Last week the threat level to Britain from Irish-related terrorism was raised from moderate to substantial, with Home Secretary Theresa May warning that an attack was a "strong possibility".

Mr Woodward said building confidence in legitimate policing was the "greatest brake on dissident growth".

He said: "Break that confidence, take community policing off the streets by cuts and the risks are huge."

He also warned against the Government's pledge to hold "no more costly inquiries" into events of Northern Ireland's past.

"Northern Ireland needs a process to deal with its past," he said.

"The Prime Minister rightly commended the work of the Historical Enquiries Team. But the HET has neither the human resource, nor budget, to conduct complex inquiries like Bloody Sunday or Billy Wright.

"The public responses to the Consultative Group on the Past found no consensus. No clear way forward.

"This isn't a time to throw your hands in the air, it's a time to start work. To find a process, build a consensus.

"Don't leave people held in the grip of the past - deal with the past. If the Government is to rule out inquiries, it must replace it with a process, fair to all, to deal with the past."

Belfast Telegraph


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