Belfast Telegraph

Police 'lucky' to discover deadly dissident bombs: PSNI Chief Byrne

Chief calls for government support for more officers

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne at a press conference in Strand Road, Derry-Londonderry.
The Chief Constable visited the city this afternoon after a spate of attacks in the area being blamed on the 'New IRA'. Pic Pacemaker
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne at a press conference in Strand Road, Derry-Londonderry. The Chief Constable visited the city this afternoon after a spate of attacks in the area being blamed on the 'New IRA'. Pic Pacemaker

Police struck lucky in discovering two potentially deadly explosives in recent days, the Chief Constable has said.

Simon Byrne also said his organisation needed more police officers in order to continue the fight against terrorism and every day crime.

He wants an additional 800 to swell his ranks to the 7,500 recommended in the Patten reforms of Northern Ireland policing.

Mr Byrne said the force could not continue working at its current tempo while relying on officers on overtime.

The chief constable said dissidents were highly motivated and very determined and he was focused on ensuring the PSNI were ahead of their efforts.

"We try and stay as best we can one step ahead of what are changing tactics," he said.

"But there is clearly a deteriorating situation in the short term in relation to the determination of terrorists to cause one of our officers death or serious injury."

He added: "The loss of one of their officers is the one tragedy no police chief wants to face, it is your worst nightmare.

"The scary thing is it is only lady luck that has prevented that."

There have been seven dissident republican attacks over the year including the Derry courthouse bombing, the murder of Lyra McKee during disturbances in the city and the discovery of an under car bomb on a police officer's car in Belfast.

Over the weekend a mortar bomb was found in Strabane. That sparked searches in Derry's Creggan estate which led to the discovery of another bomb.

The New IRA has been blamed.

Mr Byrne said as well as the internet young people could be being taught bomb making skills from those with previous involvement in terrorism.

The police chief who was appointed to the role on July 1 said he had already dealt with more terrorist threats in his short period than his predecessor had in his final year in the job.

He said he was concerned at the changing tactics as well as the geographical spread of the incidents.

"I am worried that the valiant efforts of officers cannot continue at this rate without support from the government to increase the number of people that I can deploy to communities to fight terrorism," he said.

"Communities are our biggest weapon in turning round this problem, but to encourage and enable them we need to increase our neighbourhood policing teams right across Northern Ireland."

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