‘Acceptable level of violence’ - Orde

Former PSNI Hugh Orde has come under widespread criticism after he said republican armed actions were at an “acceptable level”.

Unionists have expressed particular outrage at the comments, which recalled infamous comments by Britain’s Home Secretary Reginald Maudling in 1971, when he said the IRA would “not be defeated, not completely eliminated, but have their violence reduced to an acceptable level.”

In his speech to an audience in Oxford, Orde, who is now the president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said he believed “that we are currently in a situation where a small number, with a far smaller number of active players within that, are sufficiently committed and resourced to carry out attacks within their own geography.

“To borrow a phrase from the past, we may be at an ‘acceptable level of violence’ - albeit at a far lower level than when the phrase was first coined.”

DUP Assembly member Jimmy Spratt said the comments by the former head of the PSNI at a talk in Oxford this week were “outrageous”. The South Belfast assembly member claimed Orde had insulted the memories of the Crown force casualties of the breakaway IRA groups.

“Someone who spent any time in law enforcement should know that there is no such thing as an acceptable level of violence,” said Mr Spratt.

While Maudling, in making his original comments, said any “lasting solution” could not be secured by military action alone, Orde said he believed the breakaway groups are “unlikely to be amenable to any negotiated end”.

Orde’s comments came amid a renewed push against dissident republicans through arrests and disruption. A total of six arrests were made in Armagh and west Belfast over the weekend in connection with arms finds.

The escalated campaign followed the vote in the Belfast Assembly to take over policing and justice powers in the North from the Westminster parliament in London.

Speaking on BBC radio, the current PSNI chief Matt Baggott claimed ideology played a lesser role for the breakaway IRA groups than it had in the Provisional IRA campaign.

“It’s more diffuse now, it’s more personality based, it’s more geographically focussed,” he said.

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

“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 (London).”

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