Belfast Telegraph

Give PSNI the means to combat dissidents

Editor's viewpoint

One of the primary duties of any government is to keep its citizens safe from internal and external threats. Given the increasing menace posed by dissident republicans this duty should be the top priority of whoever takes the Justice ministry in the new Executive.

Even a cursory glance at recent statistics show how the terrorists are ramping up their campaign. In the last year an average of one bomb a week has been discovered or defused - and a prison officer killed by a booby-trap device. That is a 44% increase on the number during the previous year, and it is worrying that these splinter groups have honed their deadly skills and also appear to have access to significant quantities of explosives.

There are also concerns from the intelligence services that the dissidents plan to expand their operations to Britain, resulting in a heightened state of alert there.

In Northern Ireland they have been responsible for the murder of a number of civilians and this week it was revealed that 25 people in north Belfast are living under death threats.

It is evident that police are under enormous strain in trying to combat the activities of the terrorists - and it must be remembered that we could be looking at much grimmer statistics were it not for the vigilance of police and the intelligence services.

The PSNI is having to operate within a straitened budget resulting in manpower levels 600 below the minimum number recommended in the Patten Report, which was working on the assumption that terrorism would now be a thing of the past.

As well as the terrorist threat, there is a rising incidence of violent crime on our streets and a large number of organised gangs operating in the province and liaising with criminals in the Republic and other parts of the UK.

It has to be accepted that these are times of austerity and there are many competing demands for the money given to Stormont by the Treasury by way of the block grant. Understandably, people want adequate resources devoted to areas like education and health. But it would be criminal of the Executive to deny the Chief Constable at least the minimum resources he needs to bring the terrorists to heel. These groups do not appear open to any persuasion to end their evil campaign, and rigorous policing seems the only viable alternative.

Belfast Telegraph


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