North’s police body says officers at crossing points would be ‘sitting ducks’ for terrorists
Police federation: Border duties would place our officers at an unacceptable risk
Police do not have the numbers to protect a hard Irish Border, a representative body has warned.
Planning for a no-deal Brexit needs to begin urgently as it would cost tens of millions of pounds to secure the porous 300-mile (483km) Border, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland said.
All sides in the discussions between the EU and United Kingdom are united in opposition to a heavily-militarised border that characterised arrangements during the long Northern Ireland conflict.
Federation chairman Mark Lindsay said his members would be “sitting ducks” for terrorists if they had to regularly and predictably protect other agencies like customs officers at crossing points from Northern Ireland into the Republic.
He said: “Numbers are already painfully thin on the ground and, if hundreds were required along a porous Border, the situation would inevitably become intolerable and unmanageable.
“No-one wants a ‘hard’ border, but if there the politicians fail to reach an accord or compromise, it seems something that is a lot less relaxed than what we currently enjoy will be the consequence.”
The meandering frontier between Northern Ireland and the Republic encompasses largely remote areas and contains around 275 crossing points.
Mr Lindsay claimed there would have to be a very significant increase in the number of officers in the PSNI to secure it.
“Imagine, therefore, what would happen in communities all over Northern Ireland if officers were to be transferred to do border security duties alongside other agencies such as HM Customs & Excise? Cities and towns would see officer numbers decimated.
“Contingency planning has to begin as a matter of urgency.”
Mr Lindsay said: “It’s worth recalling that before the mid-90s (during the Troubles), the Border was secured with double the current number of officers, backed by considerable military support.
“Our officers are working consistently long hours and far too many are suffering a range of physical and psychological illnesses, such as stress, as a result,” he said.
“So, we simply don’t have the numbers to protect the other agencies which would be deployed at designated border crossings.
“Border duties would place our officers at an unacceptable risk. Setting predictable patterns along any static border establishments would mean our officers would be ‘sitting ducks’ for terrorists who want nothing more than to murder police,” Mr Lindsay said.–PA