Belfast Telegraph

Stormont security staff given stab vests in wake of Parliament attack

By Stewart Robson

Security staff working outside Stormont's Parliament Buildings have been issued with stab vests following the Westminster terror attack last year.

More than 60 protective tops have been purchased following the fatal stabbing of PC Keith Palmer in March 2017.

The move - thought to cost more than £22,000 - was uncovered by TUV leader Jim Allister, who asked a question at the Assembly.

Khalid Masood killed four pedestrians in a car rampage on Westminster Bridge minutes before stabbing PC Palmer at the Houses of Parliament.

Mr Allister said: "I was aware that there had been vests issued to other parliaments including Westminster and I'd seen some reference in Stormont to the possibility that it had happened here as well."

The North Antrim MLA added that he had no issue with the cost and that he was not familiar enough with the specialised vests to comment on their value.

He added that he hopes they are never needed and only wanted to get the information "into the public domain". Security around Stormont has been a major issue in the past. Loyalist murderer Michael Stone tried to storm his way through the building's revolving doors in 2006, only to be wrestled to the ground by staff who had spotted him making his way up the front steps.

Stone, who killed three people at an IRA funeral in Milltown cemetery in 1988, was found to have been carrying a knife, a replica pistol and explosive devices at the time. Stone later said his attack was "performance art", but he was jailed for 16 years for the act.

An Assembly spokesperson said: "The Northern Ireland Assembly regularly monitors and reviews the uniform and protective equipment provided to its staff.

"This process of review can lead to the introduction of additional preventative measures to further enhance personal safety and protection.

"In light of recent knife attacks in 2017, which included the fatal stabbing of a police officer outside the Palace of Westminster, and in line with the security measures adopted by other legislatures, the Assembly took the decision to issue stab vests to all staff who perform external security duties at Parliament Buildings.

"The Assembly Commission will continue to monitor and evaluate the appropriateness of any and all safety and security measures it introduces to ensure the protection its staff."

Protective vests have also been issued to the 85 security staff at the Scottish Parliament and other security staff at the National Assembly for Wales.

A spokesperson for the Scottish Parliament said: "All operational security staff are issued with protective vests. These are only worn when on duty at our public entrance and gatehouse.

"These vests were identified as a safety requirement during the security review undertaken in 2010; it was not a decision associated with the attacks on the UK mainland in 2017."

A spokesperson for the Welsh Assembly declined to comment "on security matters" when asked about vests being issued.

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