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RUC Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan
"The attack is probably the work of the so-called Real IRA"
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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 12:41 GMT 13:41 UK
Dissidents 'pose real threat'
Police on patrol
The RUC's annual report has been launched
Dissident republican and loyalist paramilitaries still pose a "real threat" to security in Northern Ireland, the RUC chief constable has said.

However, Sir Ronnie Flanagan insisted the dissidents were being squeezed by the RUC and the Republic of Ireland police force, the Garda Siochana.

He added: "We cannot afford and will not allow ourselves to be complacent in dealing with them."

Sir Ronnie said an explosion which damaged the railway line in south Armagh on Friday could be the work of republican dissidents, probably the Real IRA.

Ronnie Flanagan
Ronnie Flanagan: Launched annual report
He said there was also a "real possibility" that the Real IRA was planning bomb attacks in London, but added that he had no specific intelligence to suggest such an attack was imminent.

On continued loyalist paramilitary activity, Sir Ronnie said: "I am concerned within those elements in society there are tensions, frictions and animosity.

"At the worst end of the scale we have seen these being played out in murder."

All paramilitary violence was to be "deplored and regretted", he said.

We have some indications there will be small elements that intend to hijack protests

Sir Ronnie Flanagan
Sir Ronnie, who delivered the RUC annual report at the police training college at Garnerville in Belfast on Friday, said he had some evidence that dissident loyalists were planning to cause trouble at Protestant Orange Order parades such as Drumcree in Portadown, County Armagh.

On Sunday, Orangemen will march at Drumcree but they have been re-routed away from the mainly nationalist Garvaghy Road in Portadown.

Sir Ronnie said he understood there were strong feelings on both sides of the community but urged people to behave "peacefully, lawfully and with dignity".

He went on: "We have some indications there will be small elements that intend to hijack protests.

"At this stage we don't have indications to the same level as in past years. I'm not talking about organised loyalist paramilitarism, but dissidents."

Troops drafted into province

The chief constable said those organising protests had a responsibility, because even well-meaning demonstrations could be hijacked by those with more sinister intentions.

The army has drafted 2,000 soldiers into the province to bolster the security forces during the marching season.

Sir Ronnie would not say how many officers he had committed to the operation or what it might cost, but said his preparations were satisfactory and all the resources he needed were in place.

But he said the drain caused by disruption at parades meant other vital areas of policing such as drug seizures and traffic had lost out.

"Our overall task would be made considerably easier if I did not have to make provision for policing various public order situations in certain parts of Northern Ireland linked to parade disputes. "Undoubtedly there is a drain on finite resources which we could well do without."

Civilians killed

The RUC annual report showed that of 3,383 marches which took place from the end of April 1999 to the end of April this year there was disorder at only nine parades compared to 25 in the previous 12 months.

The report also showed that crime was up 9.2% on the previous year, but the number of offences cleared up by police also rose by 13.8%.

It indicated that seven civilians were killed as a result of the security situation and a total of 288 people were charged with terrorist offences or crimes related to serious public disorder, for example petrol bombing.

The police force spent 654.2m in the year under review, 1m less than the revised grants, and the additional cost for security in July last year was more than 6m.

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See also:

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Dissidents linked to railway blast
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