Bomb 'Attempt To Derail Peace': Baggott

A bomb explosion in Belfast at the weekend has threatened to explode hopes that policing powers will soon be devolved to the local Assembly.

Less than three months after the North's Policing Board headquarters in Belfast was used to introduce the new Chief Constable, Matt Baggott to the media, the man who took over as head of the PSNI in September is facing a new crisis.

A 400lb bomb partially exploded outside their HQ after a car was driven through the barrier at Clarendon Dock. Later, a car was also found burned out nearby in the staunchly republican New Lodge area of north Belfast and may have been linked to the bombing.

He commented: "None of this will deter us from the delivery of excellent policing to all people and communities in Northern Ireland and we are determined to bring those people responsible to justice."

Meanwhile, four people have been arrested after police exchanged fire with other suspected dissident republicans in Co Fermanagh – also on Saturday night.

Three men were detained by the PSNI, while the fourth man was arrested by Irish police in Dooard, Rossinver in Co Leitrim.

It emerged last night that PSNI officers – believed to be undercover - returned two warning shots, after they were shot at near the village of Garrison, close to the Irish border.

It is understood the attack in Garrison was an attempt to kill a police officer who lived in the village.

It does not appear that the officer was at home at the time of the attack and although no-one was injured in the incident, it is being investigated by Police Ombudsman Alan Hutchinson.

A PSNI stastment said that two shots were fired by police and at least one by terrorists.

"A major investigation into the incident is now under way with the three men detained having been transferred to the Serious Crime Suite at Antrim. The shots fired by police were 'warning' shots."

Chief Constable Matt Baggott said the attack on the NI Policing Board was an attempt to derail the peace process.

"We have said from day one that the terrorist situation is severe," he said, but continued to insist that he has 'substantial resources' with which to investigate and thwart these attacks.

"This attack is an attack on the well-being of everybody in Northern Ireland, this is not about an attack on policing or the Policing Board, this is an attack on young people and young people's future."

Mr Baggott added: "It is a reckless act not just in doing damage but also the potential loss of life."

On the Co Fermanagh incident, Chief Constable Matt Baggott said: "I want to commend the professionalism, the courage and the bravery of my PSNI colleagues in dealing with the incident and secondly, I want to thank the people of Garrison for their support and their patience in what is an ongoing operation."

The Policing Board Chairman Barry Gilligan said: "This attack last night was an attack upon the entire community not only the 19 members of the Policing Board but also the staff who work in that building are working on behalf of the community in holding the Chief Constable to account.”

Earlier this month, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reported that the dissident republican threat in Northern Ireland was at its highest level for almost six years.

However, the police chief has insisted that he will press ahead with the standing-down of the PSNI Full Time Reserve next year, a move that has been condemned by the DUP and other unionists.

At present, negotiations over the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont are at an advanced stage – with unionist 'confidence' in the provision of adequate policing resources being a major demand from the Assembly’s largest party, the DUP.

Though not as serious as the March murders by the Real IRA of Army sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, and Patrick Azimkar, 21, at Massereene Army base in Antrim, or the Continuity IRA murder of PSNI Constable Stephen Paul Carroll in Craigavon days after, this bombing has the potential to further disrupt negotiations – which are already tense between the DUP and Sinn Féin.


Related Irish News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

06 August 2010
'Eradicate Threat' Call After Police Bombing
Republican terrorism from their dissident faction has to be tackled with a campaign aimed at "eradicating the threat".
22 February 2011
Board Seeks Baggott Meeting Over McGurk's
The North's Policing Board is to discuss the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott's overnight statement that "all lines of enquiry had now been exhausted" into the McGurk's Bar bomb atrocity in 1971.
12 August 2009
North's New Chief Constable Announced
The man selected to lead the North's police force has said he hopes to build on his predecessor's success. Matt Baggott was appointed by the NI Policing Board last night, and will replace outgoing Chief Constable Sir Hugh Order. Sir Hugh is standing down to preside over the Association of Chief Police Officers.
26 January 2011
Riots' Photo ID Successes 'Wrong'
Identifying young rioters by publishing pictures of them is 'wrong' according to a report published by a committee of the North's Policing Board.
18 April 2011
North's Police Promise 'Customer Care'
The North's police are making a set of promises this week that may prove to be hard to keep. The new set of commitments has been put forward by PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott to help increase accountability.