Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: PSNI's border fears must be listened to

Editor's Viewpoint

There have been many views expressed on whether Brexit will be good or bad for the economy of Northern Ireland, but the comments of the Police Federation chairman yesterday will send a shudder through many people.

Mark Lindsay warned that an already stretched PSNI will come under an increased dissident threat post-Brexit, even if a hard border is avoided.

It is evident that under new arrangements there would have to be tighter police scrutiny along the frontier - and that will leave officers more vulnerable to terrorist attack.

Some may feel he was exaggerating the level of danger to reinforce his call for the retention of four police stations along the border after it emerged the PSNI is seeking funding from London to recruit another 300 officers to deal with the post-Brexit security scenario.

But that is to ignore the reality. Chief Constable George Hamilton has warned the force is 500 officers understrength to carry out its current role. Any additional duties such as border patrols would put an intolerable strain on resources.

Mr Lindsay's comments reinforce the Chief Constable's view, and they simply remind everyone that Northern Ireland is in an entirely dysfunctional state at present.

There is no indication that the political parties are likely to agree on a new devolved administration any time soon, and neither the Prime Minister nor the Secretary of State have shown any inclination to put in direct rule ministers.

It's now up to London to authorise the additional recruitment sought by Mr Hamilton and to fund the 300 extra officers.

Mr Lindsay also reminded us that policing is a very difficult, and at times, dangerous job. Officers were subjected to 3,000 assaults in the past year, some of them causing career-changing or career-ending injuries.

There will be sympathy with his call for tougher sentencing protocols for those who assault officers. He is correct that no one, not even police officers, should go to work each day expecting to be assaulted. Short, sharp jail terms for those guilty of such offences could bring home to society the gravity of the crime.

And then there is the dissident threat to the families of police - most recently targeting relatives of Catholic officers in Londonderry. The bravery of the families and the officers is in sharp contrast to the cowardice of those attempting to intimidate them.

Belfast Telegraph

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