Irish Republican News · December 3, 2009
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Dissident republicans okay, says PSNI Chief

In his first full interview since taking up his new post, PSNI police chief Matt Baggott has said that he has “no problems with dissident republicanism” but that the use of armed struggle “is just meant to intimidate and take people back to a day when the streets were full of the [British] Army.”

His comments came as prominent republicans in Belfast continued to endure harassment and violence from members of the PSNI.

Baggott said the resources at his disposal were sufficient and that he was unwilling to deploy British Army soldiers to support policing actions in the North.

“Nothing will distract us from doing this. We are not going to run away and hide, we are going to isolate these bullies and make sure the community has a voice,” Mr Baggott said.

He added: “I have no problems with dissident republicanism, I have no problem with people having a view that is completely contrary to mine.

“I have a problem when these people try to stop my colleagues doing things that really matter” which he said was “protecting children, giving victims reassurance, going to road traffic accidents and making sure that people that can’t breathe are given mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.

“I don’t have a problem with viewpoints, I have a problem when bullies are given too much space,” he added.

Ulster Unionist assembly member for Fermanagh and South Tyrone Tom Elliott said the comments were “offensive and naive” towards dissidents. “Violence is the central plank of their viewpoint. And it is that viewpoint which our chief constable has no problem with?”

Baggott also angered unionists when he described the border as “artificial” in policing terms.

“I’m not saying we would have the Garda coming here policing alongside PSNI officers.

“But wouldn’t it be great if one day the border became less symbolic, if actually we had Garda and PSNI officers policing both sides of the border under European agreement?

“The border is an artificial thing. If I lived down there (border areas) I would probably be less hung-up on the sensitivities providing my family were being looked after. We shouldn’t let politics stand in the way of doing what really matters to the families that live in that particular area.”

Mr Elliot said that for Mr Baggott to describe the border as artificial, even solely in terms of policing, was “completely unacceptable” and would “leave many unionists reeling”.

“It is deeply unhelpful and disappointing that the chief constable, for the second time in recent weeks, is involving himself in political spin - he is at least naive or, worse, providing a political mouthpiece for the Northern Ireland Office,” Mr Elliott said.

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© 2009 Irish Republican News