Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: Republican stance is ringing hollow

If anyone has any doubts about the challenges faced by the Chief Constable Matt Baggott then they have their answer in our exclusive report today on what Sinn Fein and the republican leadership feels about policing.

A leading figure says republicans' support of the PSNI is unambiguous but not unconditional and he outlines a litany of concerns about the way policing operates in Northern Ireland.

Of course republicans have always been wary of what it terms are the 'securocrats' within the security forces and the Northern Ireland Office and their opposition to the operations of the intelligence services, particularly MI5 in these times, is unwavering. Not unnaturally, given the history of recent decades, they fear the recruitment of informants and other aspects of what became known as the dirty war.

The republicans' call to the Chief Constable to start living in the real world rings hollow.

In the real world of Northern Ireland there is a viable and on-going threat from dissident republicans and Mr Baggott might well suggest that mainstream republicans could do more to bring the wilder elements to heel. He might also, with some justification, feel that the language used by republicans could easily be misinterpreted as a weakening of support for policing - we are assured that it is not - and that the comment would have been better left unsaid, at least publicly.

Mr Baggott has steered a delicate path in facing up to the dissident threat while maintaining the momentum of change within policing towards a more civic force similar to that in other UK regions. But his job is the most difficult within policing on these islands and he faces enormous political pressures from all sides. Any change is either too much or not enough depending on which side of the community you ask.

Ultimately, as he said recently, his task is to keep us all as safe as possible and in that work it has to be conceded that he and his officers are doing their job well.

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