Police from England, Scotland and Wales could become a permanent feature of the PSNI’s patrols in the north of Ireland as an alternative to the return of the British Army, it has emerged.
PSNI chief constable Matt Baggott has said he has been forced to rely on British police reinforcements on a regular basis as a result of financial constraints.
Baggott called in more than 1,000 “back-ups” from British constabularies this summer to help local recruits cope with the loyalist marching season.
On Friday he told the Policing Board that he may require such support to be “camped here” on an ongoing basis due to budget limitations.
“If we get to the point of reducing numbers, as I suspect we may if the budget continues the way it is, then I will have mutual aid camped here,” he told board members at a meeting in Omagh, County Tyrone.
“Now I don’t want to do that and neither do you - that’s not good for Northern Ireland.”
Speaking later, Baggott claimed that the deployment of officers from British forces had prevented a breakdown in society at the hands of loyalists.
But he still denied that the loyalist paramilitary UVF have “come off ceasefire”.
Despite shooting a 24-year-old woman and orchestrating some of the worst disorder seen in the North in over a decade, the head of the PSNI again claimed the upsurge of loyalist violence in 2013 was due to “some local crime gangs in east Belfast”
Nevertheless, British reinforcements had been the key to prevent the Six Counties “falling over the precipice” into anarchy, he said.
The number of riot police had doubled and dozens of new armoured vehicles and other equipment had been received, but he still had to ask for additional forces “to come over here and support us if things got really tough”.
“Now we couldn’t have predicted where we would believe if we hadn’t put those steps in place just in case, then we would have fallen over the precipice.
“We had to make some really tough decisions at the start of the year - because of the scale of the (flag) protests we couldn’t deal with everything.
“We have 550 parades on the Twelfth [of July] and genuinely we did look at the fact that the year before we didn’t have any real contingency.”
Despite a heavy marketing campaign involving Catholic schoolchildren and the GAA sports association, the PSNI remains an overwhelmingly Protestant police force. Baggott insisted a permanent garrison of British police could prevent a return of the hated British Army to street patrols.
“The [British] army’s gone and I’ve made it very clear the army won’t be back,” he said.