Report praises PSNI success in thwarting terrorist attacks
A new report by the British government-appointed Independent Reviewer of Terrorism says the Police Service of Northern Ireland averted significant attacks during 2013.
According to David Anderson QC, the severe threat level last year would have been "substantially greater" without the efforts of the police.
In the report published on policing website Police Oracle, Mr Anderson indicated the "stagnant and polarised political environment" is hampering counter terror efforts.
He also said the PSNI averted significant attacks and stressed the courage of officers "should not be underestimated".
He wrote: "Violent republican activity, though well down on 1997-2002, continued at levels broadly comparable to those experienced since devolution in 2007.
"Dissident republicans were responsible for the bulk of the 73 bombings and 48 shootings during 2013. Pipe bombs, mortars and under-vehicle IEDs were all used – targets for attack included officers, police stations, churches, community centres and private houses."
Mr Anderson also highlighted concerns regarding the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) gaining greater prominence.
He pointed out that the "financial and physical" cost of policing parades and marches had continued to rise and was also critical of the political environment here.
"The stagnant and polarised political environment in Northern Ireland seems ill-adapted to curing the underlying resentments, as illustrated in 2013 by the failure of the multi-party process led by Dr Richard Haass to even agree a procedural solution to the contentious issue of flags, parades and the past.
"It is necessary to conclude that the terrorist threat in Northern Ireland, though much diminished, remains real and ever present and that it would have been substantially greater without the efforts of the PSNI and some laws designed specifically for use against terrorism."
Last night, Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, told the Belfast Telegraph the report was a "heartening assessment" that pays tribute to the work of rank-and-file officers and he also urged Stormont to protect and increase police budgets.
"Policing in Northern Ireland is not like policing in any other region of the United Kingdom or Western Europe, and I know the men and women who do remarkable work in the face of a severe terrorist threat on them and their families, both on and off duty, will take great heart from Mr Anderson's comments," he said.
David Anderson was appointed by the Home Secretary to report to Westminster on the operation of counter-terrorism law in the UK.
He is independent of government and his findings are sent to cabinet ministers.
He said: "I have seen for myself how officers of the PSNI must live, both on and off duty, under the scrutiny of those who could turn into their killers.
"Their courage, and their service to the peaceful citizens of Northern Ireland, should not be underestimated."