Belfast Telegraph

Terror specialist in dissident warning over a hard border

A man looks across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from Edentober in Co Louth to Newry in Co Down
A man looks across the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland from Edentober in Co Louth to Newry in Co Down

By Sarah Vesty

A counter-terrorism expert has warned Irish communities to "reject violence" amid a growing threat of dissident activity linked to Brexit.

Former PSNI Superintendent Ken Pennington believes a hard border could be used as a "narrative" by terrorists.

The 50-year-old, who served in Northern Ireland for more than 30 years, also voiced concern that an increased media presence could be used as a platform to spread their message around the world.

He told a European Confederation of Police conference in Madrid: "For over 18 months, there's been building political community protest around the subject of Brexit, especially in the border communities."

He said that 30,000 people cross the border daily travelling to work.

"Anything that interferes with that freedom of movement will be seen or thought of very harshly by the communities affected," he said.

"If you end up with a hard border and the disruption to the quality of life for people, that will be used as a narrative that Brexit is an English imposition on the people of Ireland.

"That's why I say it creates almost a recruiting poster and they would gain some support for them within communities. That narrative will be used to justify violence.

"On the back of that, I think the publicity generated by an actual Brexit will be fuel to the fire.

"They will try and make the most of the enhanced media presence at that time.

"Politics always happens in Northern Ireland and the Republic. I think people just need to continue to reject violence.

"We're very fortunate that the two police forces in Ireland are very professional.

"They'll be looking engage with communities, to listen to their concerns and I can't see either of those police services being anything but proportionate in their response."

Mr Pennington, who studied counter-terrorism at St Andrews University, also told how a mortar tube and command wire found by the PSNI on Monday in Castlewellan, Co Down, may be linked to a terror cell.

He explained: "The mortar that was found in Northern Ireland was probably in transit.

"We are finding a lot of these weapons, but we are not finding all of them. These are the activities that precede the coming storm."

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