Breakaway IRA groups have established an effective ‘no go’ area for the PSNI in County Fermanagh, it has been confirmed.
Armed PSNI personnel are now only permitted to go into certain areas of South Fermanagh by helicopter.
The DUP has called for British soldiers be sent in to ‘regain control’ from the dissidents.
The area centres on the town of Newtownbutler. Earlier this month, an ATM machine was removed from a shop in the town by a mechanical digger without any response from the PSNI, provoking complaints from local business figures.
Last Friday, the Real IRA issued bomb warnings in Enniskillen while on Saturday, the Continuity IRA issued bomb warnings in Lisnaskea and Maguiresbridge. Local shopkeepers were urged by the PSNI to search the areas in question, fuelling anger over policing in the county.
In a response, the local PSNI chief Michael Skuce blamed “criminals” but said his force was facing “a challenge that no other police service in the United Kingdom faces”.
“We will police Fermanagh. We do police Fermanagh. But given the significant threat, we may at present have to do that in a different way than we would like to do it. For example, sometimes the quickest and safest ways to insert police officers is by helicopter. If that is what is needed, then we will do it.”
PSNI members have admitted they are not responding to incidents in certain areas around Newtownbutler by road, but only armed personnel will be sent in by air when authorised.
Last week, a church hall and an Orange hall were attacked in the Newtownbutler area amid a general increase in sectarianism surrounding the Orange Order’s ‘Twelfth’ marches.
The incidents came after an anti-Catholic parade was staged in the overwhelmingly nationalist town, but led to a renewed call by unionists for British troops to be deployed in the area.
“I have suggested for a long time that if the PSNI cannot cope with these issues it is time they brought in a limited army presence to protect the isolated Protestant communities against these Republican thugs,” stated Tom Elliott of UCUNF.
“I again reiterate this call before someone is murdered in this area”.
Mr Elliott also reacted strongly to news that a new cumann [branch] of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement is being set up in Fermanagh to honour IRA war hero James Lynagh - one of eight IRA Volunteers massacred by the SAS at Loughgall, County Armagh, in May 1987.
“He was an IRA terrorist who was one of eight men actively seeking to murder innocent people before the SAS stepped in and put an end to their evil activities in Loughgall,” he said.
He called for renewed “covert” activity to “wipe out” the dissidents. Recent savings in the cost of the British military occupation elsewhere in the north of Ireland could be diverted to defeat the Real IRA in Fermanagh, he said.
“If they do something fairly proactive that could wipe out that threat. I am saying there needs to be a covert Army presence to curtail that threat.”
Covert British Army units are already understood to be operating in the area.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement said the statement “sounds suspiciously like a call for the SAS and other such units to re-engage in the practice of ‘shoot to kill’ against Republican separatists.”
“The British security apparatus is already investing vast sums into the targeting and harassment of Republicans, their families and the wider Republican/Nationalist community across the six counties and calls for even more money to be made available are a tacit admission that the normalisation process is not going to plan,” said the Fermanagh 32CSM in a statement.
“It is also proof, if it were needed, that Britain most certainly does have political, strategic and economic reasons for being in this part of Ireland.
“While all IRA volunteers and other insurgents fighting the British occupation in Ireland are aware of and accept the risk of death, it is our fear that allocating more resources to British killer gangs and comments like those of Tom Elliot could well result in the deaths of innocent nationalists and political activists as has happened so many times in recent history.”
* An armed and masked member of the Continuity IRA appeared following a riot in Armagh over a Twelfth of July parade in the town last week.
Anti-republican lobbyist Willie Frazer Willie Frazer said dissident republicans were creating “no go areas” as the PSNI sought to avoid attack.
The footage was further evidence of the “brazenness” of dissident republicans in the county, he said.
The CIRA man was on foot patrol and was armed with an AK47 assault rifle, according to republican youths, who captured the incident on a camera phone and posted the video on the internet.