Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Dissident threat will pose real challenge for new police chief

In the near future the new Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne will take up his post, and he will face a number of testing challenges which confront anyone in this difficult and high-profile role
In the near future the new Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne will take up his post, and he will face a number of testing challenges which confront anyone in this difficult and high-profile role

Editor's Viewpoint

In the near future the new Chief Constable of the PSNI Simon Byrne will take up his post, and he will face a number of testing challenges which confront anyone in this difficult and high-profile role.

However, at the top of his in-tray will surely be the threat from militant republican dissidents to the lives of his officers and other people, including the murdered journalist Lyra McKee, who find themselves in the line of fire.

At the weekend there was a murderous attack on the life of an off-duty policeman at a Belfast golf club. Due to his professional vigilance, by checking under his car, and sheer good luck, the attack was foiled and his family and friends have been spared the trauma of his death and of planning his funeral.

This was a brazen attempt to kill an off-duty policeman in broad daylight with adults and children in the grounds of a golf club where innocent people were enjoying a recreational weekend.

There may also be a cross-border dimension to the incident, and the PSNI have appealed for information about two vehicles used in the attack, one of which is registered in the Irish Republic.

As the weekend events made clear, the new Chief Constable needs to acquire sufficient financial resources to enable his force to hunt down these terrorists, who have nothing to offer our society but a return to the violence of the past, with its unspeakable suffering and grief.

The reality is that these are relatively small terror groups, but they can have an impact disproportionate to their numbers, and their impact can have devastating consequences.

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Only six weeks ago, Lyra McKee was murdered in Londonderry, three years ago prison officer Adrian Ismay died after a bomb attack on his car, while several similar attacks on security personnel have failed.

It is not all one-sided, and earlier this year Ian Ogle was murdered by so-called loyalists in east Belfast.

Nevertheless, it is the dissidents and former republicans who are grabbing headlines with their grotesque activities, such as the volley of shots fired over the coffin of ex-INLA member Martin McElkerney.

Bizarrely, this was watched by tourists on a sightseeing bus who were taking pictures of the gruesome scene, which was not exactly a good advertisement for the peace process in Northern Ireland.

Ironically, some people who come here for our tourist attractions are also seeing a province that in one sense is still trapped in a time machine.

Against such a background of a "peaceful" province still plagued by intermittent violence, people have a right to know where these guns and bombs come from, and to be kept informed of the campaign against the activist fanatics.

It is also important to underline that cross-border co-operation is essential to bring them to justice.

Sadly, in 2019, some 21 years after the Good Friday Agreement, there are those who still seek to murder police officers, and depressingly, others who vote for candidates who represent dissident republicanism.

We are still locked not only in a campaign against violence but also in a battle of hearts and minds between those who hark to a dark past and those who point to a brighter future for all.

Belfast Telegraph

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