Police chief warns dissidents will target any hard Irish border

Posted On: 
7th December 2017

Republican terror groups would try to attack any infrastructure around a hard border in Ireland following Brexit, a senior police officer has warned.

The PSNI has warned the threat of violence could rise from a hard border
Credit: 
PA Images

Drew Harris, the deputy chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said ministers must stay true to their word of keeping the frontier open or risk dissidents targeting buildings.

His intervention came as members of the Brexit committee visited County Armagh and just days before the Government’s deadline for proposing a border solution to the EU, before they consider moving on to trade talks.

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“The UK has said there will be no infrastructure on the border, that would be an obvious place for dissident groups to rally around and also to attack,” Mr Harris warned.

“It is highly foreseeable that dissident groups would seek to take action and that would include buildings.”

He said the threat from republican splinter groups remains significant, albeit often unreported – with dozens of shooting and bombing incidents so far this year.

“Dissident groups see this as an area which is contentious which will give them a further rallying call to try and engender support,” he added.

“It is of concern, they have a focus in this, they see it as an opportunity.”

He also said keeping an open border would allow the PSNI and Irish police – An Garda Siochana – to continue to capture criminals who act in one jurisdiction and then flee to the other.

“What we want to concentrate on is that we don’t diminish where we are at the moment, that our relationships are maintained [post Brexit],” he added.

“I served on this border 30 years ago, we had good relationship with the Garda Siochana, but we just didn’t have the legislative infrastructure and people flee across the border to evade the police.”

Mr Harris' warning comes as rank and file officers warn a dramatic rise in the number manning the frontier would be needed were there a hard border.

The Police Federation of Northern Ireland said around a thousand extra police officers would have to be recruited to patrol the 310-mile stretch.