Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 17:42 UK

Police cuts 'hit dissident fight'

Police officer at scene of dissident alert in Belfast
Cutbacks are undermining police ability to deal with dissidents, it is claimed

Cutbacks are undermining the ability of police to tackle dissident republicans, the Police Federation has said.

Terry Spence, the chairman of the body which represents rank and file officers, said the PSNI was "dangerously under-resourced".

He said 420 "viable devices" had been found in 750 security alerts across Northern Ireland in the last two years.

However, the government said it remains committed to providing the resources needed to combat the dissident threat.

Security Minister Paul Goggins told the federation's annual conference in Belfast that the PSNI was given access to an additional £28.7m within days of the murders of two soldiers outside their barracks in Antrim.

Mr Goggins added: "At a time of pressure upon public sector finances, the government again demonstrated its commitment to providing the resources required to address the threat."


The government has since demanded the PSNI cuts £17m from its budget but Mr Goggins said that efficiency savings in the police budget "must mean more, not less, front line policing".

Mr Spence told delegates that the PSNI has been dangerously under-resourced in the "determination to close the book on Northern Ireland as a political and security nightmare".

"Despite the deteriorating security situation we still have not faced up to the severity of the threat from dissidents," he said.

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott believes the threat is being taken very seriously

New PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Security Minister Paul Goggins were among guests invited to the La Mon House hotel in Belfast to hear Mr Spence's address.

Mr Baggott said he believed the dissident threat was being taken very seriously.

"Everything I've seen since being appointed and before being appointed in the last few days is that the threat is being taken very seriously indeed," he said.


There has been an increase in dissident republican activity and police are currently running Operation Descent, aimed at disrupting any potential attack.

Mr Spence described the dissidents as "murderous dinosaurs" who were determined to kill police and soldiers "or anyone associated with them in any way".

He also criticised the recent decisions to axe the 500-strong Full Time Reserve police and sell 26 stations to private developers.

"We are still in a period when the political future is uncertain, when the terrorist threat is growing rather than diminishing, when loyalist decommissioning looks promising but is incomplete, and when public order is easily broken," he said.

"Yet the government still sees fit to permit the dismantling of our policing defences."

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