Northern Police Bomb Response 'Embarassing'

The boss of the North's Police Federation has said that officers are embarrassed by the PSNI's 'slow response' to a bomb blast in a border town last week.

Just six months after police who turned away from an armed republican 'checkpoint' operating illegally in the same area were supported by senior officers, the rank and file officers' assocaition Chairman Terry Spence said: "Since January we have had 18 bomb and mortar attacks, 18 gun attacks, an officer seriously and permanently maimed, and 24 officers and their families have been intimidated from their homes.

"The latest incident last week, when Newtownhamilton police station was attacked for the second time in two weeks, illustrates all too clearly the ineffectiveness of our response as a police service to protecting the community."

He agreed that there was criticism of the PSNI response to Thursday's car bomb attack in south Armagh after local residents had to be evacuated from their homes by firefighters when police did not appear at the scene of the blast for up to two hours following a warning call made to a Belfast hospital.

In the event, just two people were injured when the bomb exploded outside the village's police station and Mr Spence said officers did not want that happening again.

"If you look at what happened in Newtownhamilton last week, we had the fire service who had to cordon off the area and had to deal with what was a very serious, murderous attack on police officers, on the police station and on the civilian community as well.

"That's something our officers are embarrassed about - they don't want to have that situation," he said.

After the attack, police said they had to be cautious about how they responded to the initial bomb warning as dissident republicans were intent on murdering officers.

On Monday, Mr Spence told Justice Minister David Ford the federation does not believe the Chief Constable has "sufficient" resources.

He said he had written to all the Stormont Executive Ministers to highlight the issue and to call for "collective action".

Mr Spence said he was concerned about the increased level of dissident republican attacks since January, but Chief Constable Matt Baggott said he had enough resources.

It has also emerged that the PSNI are likely to 'swamp' the streets in a bid to prevent fresh attacks by dissident republicans in the run-up to the General Election.

The revelation from UUP MLA Basil McCrea comes after members of the NI Policing Board received a detailed briefing from PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott on the current security situation following the bomb in Newtownhamilton.

The top officer updated members on the police response to the bomb attack on and the measures the PSNI have put in place to deal with the security threat.

Officially, members were encouraged by re-assured that the PSNI are taking a measured and responsible approach to dealing with the current terrorist threat, but behind the scenes there are severe doubts emerging from various quarters over the force's reactive capability.

In September last year, a PSNI patrol turned back from an ilegal republican chekpoint in the same area with the police crew involved being fully backed by senior officers for withdrawing from the scene.

This was inspite of masked men brandishing automatic weapons and a rocket launcher and stopping cars to distribute republican literature.

See: No Army Return In Armagh, Say Police


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