Belfast Telegraph

Warning over dissidents as new PSNI chief takes up reins

Chief Constable Simon Byrne
Chief Constable Simon Byrne
George Hamilton
Brett Campbell

By Brett Campbell

The new PSNI Chief Constable assumes the role today after his predecessor warned of the ongoing threat posed by dissident republicans.

Simon Byrne (56) replaces Sir George Hamilton and is the third Englishman to take on one of the most demanding jobs in UK policing.

At the weekend Mr Hamilton warned in a radio interview that the murder of journalist Lyra McKee had done nothing to reduce the threat of dissident violence here.

He said the possibility of attacks remains "highly likely" in the wake of her killing, the same as it has been for five years.

Mr Hamilton told Brendan O'Connor on RTE Radio One's Marian Finucane Show that "sadly, we haven't seen any let-up in violent dissident activity".

"We've prevented bombings and shootings and that tells me we should not be complacent," he said.

"I don't think we've crossed any significant lines."

Ms McKee (29) was shot dead by the New IRA while observing rioting in the Creggan in Londonderry on April 18.

Mr Hamilton said that while her death prompted condemnation, there was an urgent need for political and community activists to build on a widespread feeling of revulsion.

"I do think there has been a change, but whether or not it's the sea change we had hoped for whereby these people would not be able to operate within these communities, it remains a significant problem," he said.

"They're meting out more pain and punishment on their own communities than anyone else."

Mr Hamilton said that officers faced dangers every day, as demonstrated by what happened at Shandon Park Golf Club last month.

"Just a few weeks ago a serving officer discovered, after a morning round of golf, a bomb had been put under his car," he said.

"It was a fully viable device, it did not activate for some reason.

"Had it exploded it would have killed him and potentially other people in the vicinity.

"Some people want to take us back to the past and create conflict. That is the mindset of 40 years ago.

"It did not work then and it does not work now."

Mr Hamilton said it remained a matter of regret that officers were still "routinely armed" despite the air of optimism following the Good Friday Agreement.

He also claimed a no-deal Brexit would open the floodgates for organised crime gangs and result in greater resources being needed to police the border.

However, he expressed confidence that officers were ready for to deal with the challenges that will bring.

The dissident threat and Brexit are only two of the major obstacles which Mr Byrne will face.

He will also need to grapple with the complexities surrounding legacy issues, as well as Catholic recruitment.

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