Belfast Telegraph

Police adamant: we can cope with wave of security alerts

By Anne Madden

A massive bomb found in a van near Newry which shut down the main Belfast to Dublin Road was the eighth security alert in a week in Northern Ireland.

Police, however, have insisted they are not being stretched to deal with the frequent alerts.

The security operation on Friday came less than a week after the murder of PSNI constable Ronan Kerr in Omagh.

Despite the widespread revulsion, the alerts have continued unabated since Constable Kerr’s murder.

In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph, the PSNI said that Chief Constable Matt Baggott is on record as saying that police have “adequate resources in place to ensure a personal, professional and protective policing service for Northern Ireland”.

In February the PSNI was awarded an additional £200m funding which Mr Baggott said “will ensure the Police Service of Northern Ireland has the operational capability to protect our communities from serious harm”.

The police have 611 additional officers in neighbourhood and response policing compared to June 2009.

However, they were criticised for their lack of visibility at the scene of the van bomb in Newry on Friday, which allowed dozens of motorists to ignore ‘road closed’ signs and pass the vehicle.

It followed a similar incident a week earlier during a security alert in Co Fermanagh on March 31. It took police over seven hours to close the Dernawilt Road to traffic after a gas cylinder with wires protruding from the top was spotted on a grass verge.

Police said investigations were being carried out from afar, with helicopters scouting the scene for further suspect objects.

In response to the Newry bomb, Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson insisted the road had been secured.

He described it as a “complex

operation to close down and keep in place” but that it had been done using a combination of police officers, signs, cones and lights.

“I would appeal to members of the public that if the road is closed with signage and police tape, please accept that,” he said.

The chief superintendent revealed that the 500lbs bomb, discovered on Thursday night, may have been intended for a high-profile town centre attack, which could have wreaked similar carnage to that inflicted on Omagh 13 years ago.

He said: “It is our belief that the van was being moved to another location and it was thwarted by the police operation.”

Factfile

Week of security alerts:

Fri April 1: Suspect object at courthouse in Londonderry.

Mon April 4: Two hoaxes in Lurgan. Police targeted by petrol bombers. Two alerts in north Belfast. In Toomebridge, hoax pipe bomb.

Thurs April 7: Newry van bomb. Security alert continued next day.

Fri April 8: Hoax device at Lurgan school.

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