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Police deserve our backing, not our criticism

Incidents in the Newry and Armagh area over recent days have revealed our vulnerability and left no doubt that indiscriminate loss of human life is on the cards.

While I am concerned by the capabilities of the PSNI to tackle a mounting dissident republican threat, it is wholly unreasonable to suggest that the blame for any loss or inconvenience lies with anyone other than the perpetrators of such attacks.

In light of this week's car bomb in Newry, concerns about police handling of the Keady bomb alert are put into stark perspective.

Media reports criticising the prolonged police response in Keady made me question at what point the perpetrators - rather than the PSNI - would become the focus of community anger. Then, just days later, police caution in Keady was vindicated by the attack on Newry.

It beggars belief that the length of time it took to clear bombs from Keady is the issue, rather than focusing on the bombers.

Ordinary officers putting their lives on the line cannot be subjected to our criticism.

If our concern should be directed anywhere, it should be at the complacent attitude adopted by senior police command and at the top of Government - including the Secretary of State - as to the real threat posed by these dissident republicans.

They are not going away, and they are not playing at soldiers. This is a real threat, with real injuries already inflicted, and - as is increasingly apparent - the clear aim of killing security personnel and civilians.

We need an appropriate security response, to include additional resources in border areas and increased use of intelligence.

Our officers deserve the necessary support - not to mention our wholehearted gratitude - if they are to be enabled to protect our communities.

DANNY KENNEDY (UUP)

MLA for Newry and Armagh

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