Page last updated at 12:56 GMT, Sunday, 14 March 2010

Dissidents 'like London street gangs' - Matt Baggott

Matt Baggott
Matt Baggott took over as chief constable last year

Northern Ireland's chief constable has compared dissident republican terrorists to criminal street gangs he encountered in London in the 1980s.

Matt Baggott was speaking on Radio Ulster's Seven Days programme.

"I think to some degree it's different but it is the same as, for example dealing with street gangs in Brixton," he said.

"You get first of all the glorification, the mythology of violence and martyrdom to some degree."

He added: "I think that has to be broken by the reality that actually nobody else signed up to this."

Mr Baggott, who was formerly chief constable of Leicestershire, took over as head of the PSNI from Sir Hugh Orde last September.

There have been several dissident republican attacks during his tenure, including the bomb attack which critically injured Constable Peader Heffron.

Mr Baggott said ideology played a lesser part in the dissidents' violence than it may have done in previous republican campaigns.

"It's more diffuse now, it's more personality based, it's more geographically focussed.

"It's much more about who you know as opposed to a very clear set of ideologies or hierarchies.

I have a very strong Christian faith where I have never planned anything in my 33 years of policing

"To some degree that makes it more difficult to deal with, but on the other hand it makes it easier because we can deal much more specifically with the people and the locations rather than an overwhelming sense of ideology," he said.

"To some degree this is much more about individual personalities and the retention of power and the retention of status and being seen to be somebody.

"We have to tackle that in exactly the same way as we tackle street gangs in Brixton and Peckham."

Faith

Talking about his decision to take the PSNI job, the chief constable said he felt he had been "very strongly pulled" to Northern Ireland.

"I have a very strong Christian faith where I have never planned anything in my 33 years of policing.

"When I'm more open to what I believe is meant to happen, the circumstances have always worked around me.

"When I've tried to push the pace myself then sometimes the door is shut."

I wouldn't describe it as a quagmire... I would describe it as a place that I've found to be hungry for change

He denied he saw the job as a stepping stone to a more prestigious job.

"I don't see this as a career move. I believe that as chief constable I'm meant to be here at this moment - how that works out is a question for others to shape and work with me on.

"But yes my faith has been a determining factor in me coming here as chief constable."

He added: "My ambition is to do the best job I can here as chief constable of the people of Northern Ireland."

Mr Baggott said that despite the difficulties of policing in Northern Ireland, he was enjoying the job.

"It's a massive privilege to be here. We've settled really well here, we've made lots of friends already.

"I wouldn't describe it as a quagmire... I would describe it as a place that I've found to be hungry for change."



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Orde will be hard act to follow
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