Reference Library – Northern Ireland
Police do not have the numbers to protect a hard Irish border, a representative body has warned. Planning for a no-deal Brexit needs to begin urgently as it would cost tens of millions of pounds to secure the porous 300-mile (483km) frontier, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) said. All sides in the discussions between the EU and UK are united in opposition to a heavily-militarised border that characterised arrangements during the long Northern Ireland conflict. Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said his members would be “sitting ducks” for terrorists if they had to regularly and predictably protect other agencies like customs officers at crossing points from Northern Ireland into the Republic.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland said the force did not have enough officers to secure a hard border (Paul Faith/PA)
He said: “Numbers are already painfully thin on the ground and, if hundreds were required along a porous border, the situation would inevitably become intolerable and unmanageable. “No-one wants a ‘hard’ border, but if there the politicians fail to reach an accord or compromise, it seems something that is a lot less relaxed than what we currently enjoy will be the consequence.” The meandering frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic encompasses largely remote areas and contains around 275 crossing points. Mr Lindsay claimed there would have to be a very significant increase in the number of officers in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to secure it. “Imagine, therefore, what would happen in communities all over Northern Ireland if officers were to be transferred to do border security duties alongside other agencies such as HM Customs & Excise ? Cities and towns would see officer numbers decimated.
“Contingency planning has to begin as a matter of urgency.” The Federation has been calling for an increase in the number of officers for years. Mr Lindsay said the present below-par total of fewer than 6,700 was already a few hundred below what Chief Constable George Hamilton said he required.
In October the PSNI launched a new recruitment drive and said they were hoping to sign up 300 new officers. Next year some 730 are eligible to retire – 11% of the workforce . A further 331 can retire over the following two years, the Federation disclosed.
Partial amnesty over Northern Ireland for security forces ‘hard to administer’
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/partial-amnesty-over-northern-ireland-for-security-forces-hard-to-administer-36369190.html
A partial amnesty for police and soldiers’ actions during the Northern Ireland conflict would be difficult to administer, the country’s top prosecutor said. Sinn Fein and the Irish government have objected after some MPs called for a “statute of limitations” law . Proposals on addressing the legacy of deaths and injuries during Northern Ireland’s 30 years of violence have not yet been published.
Departing Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC said a partial safeguard from prosecution favouring the security forces would be legally questionable. He said: “As DPP, a partial amnesty would be difficult to administer . I t would certainly invite challenges but it is not for me to say whether it is legal or not.
“If it is a statute, it is a statute so it will have gone through parliament.
“In terms of the international legality of it, it would be questionable.”
MPs from the House of Commons Defence Committee have called for the blocking of prosecutions. Veterans have argued that it was unfair to charge pensioners over crimes committed early in the conflict.
The UK Government has said its preferred option for addressing the past is the 2014 Stormont House Agreement between the local parties, which did not include the proposal envisaged by some Conservative MPs. Their opinions are well-known, including within Government. Stormont House included a range of measures to address the past, including an Historical Investigations Unit (HIU) to search for new opportunities to prosecute.
It also envisaged a Commission on Information Retrieval whereby relatives of the dead and injured could privately receive information about the deaths of their loved ones . Its information would be inadmissible for criminal legal proceedings. Mr McGrory said around a quarter of his total workload was taken up with dealing with legacy issues.
He added: “The last 18 months the legal landscape from a prosecutorial perspective has become increasingly dominated by legacy, it is taking up a significant amount of time.”
He said as part of any implementation of the Stormont House Agreement resources would be made available to his successor to deal with the flow of cases referred by HIU investigators.
“That will very significantly increase the workload on the PPS as far as legacy is concerned.
“It would be utterly unsustainable under the current resource pot.
“I would expect that of the pot of money set aside to implement the Stormont House Agreement a significant amount of it would come our way but it will still nevertheless be a significant burden on the prosecutor’s office.”
Belfast City Hall security lags well behind rest of UK and must be upgraded urgently, expert warns
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/belfast-city-hall-security-lags-well-behind-rest-of-uk-and-must-be-upgraded-urgently-expert-warns-36348968.html
Counter-terrorism measures to protect the public at Belfast’s Christmas Market lag far behind those at similar events across Britain, a security expert has warned. Andrew McQuillan accused the authorities of failing to do as much as they should to protect the public and called on the council to urgently make improvements.
He was speaking after the Belfast Telegraph yesterday revealed details of a counter-terrorist assessment showing City Hall was extremely vulnerable to a car bomb or lone wolf attack involving knives or other weapons. The National Counter-Terrorism Security Office (NaCTSO) identified the Christmas Market, which runs until December 23, as a “specific vulnerability”. The report will be discussed by the council’s strategic policy and resources committee today before it is debated at a full council meeting on December 4.
Mr McQuillan said: “I have worked on security at events across the UK, Europe and the US.
“The measures adopted in Northern Ireland just aren’t as good as those elsewhere, which is surprising given the significant paramilitary threat we faced in the recent past.
“Security at the Winter Wonderland event in London is phenomenal and that at the Christmas markets in Birmingham and Manchester is also very high.
“The measures in place at Belfast City Hall’s market lag seriously behind and this must be urgently addressed.
“We should not bury our heads in the sand . There are steps which can be taken immediately to improve the situation.”
The council has installed large planters on the pavement outside City Hall “to provide some protection in case of a vehicle-born attack” . But Mr McQuillan said that while the measure was welcome it wasn’t nearly enough. He suggested that protection could be enhanced if interlocking red-and-white security barriers were placed around City Hall . He added: “These have been placed at bridges in London before permanent barriers go up.
“They are filled with water and sand and are very cheap to erect.
“NaCTSO is a highly respected organisation . They have highlighted weaknesses and Belfast City Council really should move swiftly to implement their recommendations.”
Mr McQuillan, who owns Crowded Space Drones and whose father Alan was a former PSNI Assistant Chief Constable, said there was a dangerous complacency in Northern Ireland about the dangers of an attack at a public venue. He added: “Just because we had republican and loyalist violence in the past doesn’t exempt us from international terrorism . Some claim on social media that reporting the threat here is scaremongering.
“These people have no awareness whatsoever of public safety at events . A report from the National Counter-Terrorism Security Office is not scaremongering . It has to be taken seriously.”
Mr McQuillan also claimed it was wrongly argued that increased security would mean Northern Ireland was returning to the past.
He said: “What these people ignore is that armed police at Christmas markets in England is very normal and England usually has an unarmed police force.
“We are dealing with a new emerging threat . Not updating and changing your plans is just not smart . It is waving a red flag at a bull.
“People can choose to inhabit a bubble but it doesn’t reflect the world we live in . No risks should be taken with major events.”
Mr McQuillan said the council could apply to have the national barrier asset system deployed – temporary high-grade security fencing which protects high-profile locations or events. He added: “I feel sorry for the council as the market’s location at City Hall isn’t the easiest to protect . We really need to talk about the issue .
Ignoring it doesn’t make our vulnerability go away.
“Making security at your event look visibly as hard as possible is a great deterrent for terrorists who are hunting vulnerable targets”.