Page last updated at 16:17 GMT, Tuesday, 25 August 2009 17:17 UK

Dissidents a growing threat: Orde

Meigh
Masked men set up a roadblock in Meigh

Dissident republicans are a growing threat in Northern Ireland, Chief Constable Hugh Orde has said.

However, Mr Orde said the danger they posed should not be exaggerated.

"This is not the Provisional IRA. This is not an organisation that is highly organised, highly capable and supported internationally," he said.

Earlier, Mr Orde said a police patrol who came across an armed roadblock in south Armagh on Friday night were right to pull back.

Up to seven masked men - six with machine guns and one with a rocket launcher - blocked a road in Meigh, near Newry.

They distributed leaflets warning locals not to cooperate with the police or Sinn Fein.

"It was just a stunt by a group trying to be relevant," Sir Hugh said.

"I'm absolutely convinced they (the police patrol) took the right action when they came across it.

"This sort of activity will not put us off community policing and will not put the community off community policing."

However, Ulster Unionist Policing Board member Basil McCrea said "some hard questions" would have to be asked at the next board meeting about the incident.

"Whilst it might have been right in the specific instance for a patrol that might not have had the resources to withdraw, action should have been taken very quickly to ensure that additional resources were brought in and the whole thing brought under control," he said.

"It is very important that we are seen to control all areas of Northern Ireland, that people do not get some idea that there's areas that we can't get into.

"In areas, particularly around the border where people feel vulnerable, they do need to have some sort of rapid response units to try and take control."

Support

Sir Hugh Orde said the group has 'no community support'

Sir Hugh, who steps down as chief constable on 1 September, said the road block would not put people off supporting the PSNI.

"We will continue to protect the communities as best we can, with their support and I know they will not let us down," he said.

"This organisation and this community is going in the right direction, these people will not prevent it, whatever they try to do."

Terry Spence, chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, said the officers who pulled back from the road block on Friday night had done "a magnificent job".

"They acted swiftly with very cool heads and they extricated themselves from the scene. Otherwise, I fear that they could have lost their lives."



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