Garda could patrol streets in the north
GARDA officers from the Republic of Ireland could be patrolling the streets of Northern Ireland by Christmas, it was claimed yesterday.
The Irish parliament, the Dail, is preparing to pass laws today that will enable the forces to merge. If the move is approved, it will be the first time police from a foreign country have patrolled British streets.
The controversial step, which will be opposed by hardline unionists, is part of the Patten proposals for the reform of the Protestant-dominated Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Michael McDowell, the justice minister in the Dublin government, confirmed last night that the new laws will be passed in the Dail.
However, hardline unionists dismissed the plans, claiming few officers from the Irish Republic will venture north.
Alex Attwood, the chairman of the moderate nationalist SDLP, claimed Mr McDowell gave him assurances during a meeting in Dublin.
He said: "The minister has confirmed to the SDLP that the final stages of the legislation to enable Garda entry into the Police Service of Northern Ireland will be passed by the Dail on Tuesday.
"This provides the legislative basis for Garda officers to be on the streets of the north by Christmas."
Plans for officers on both sides of the Irish border to switch were included in the Patten plans for transforming the PSNI, but the move must be passed by Dublin.
Ian Paisley jun, one of the Democratic Unionists on the Northern Ireland Policing Board, insisted the new laws would make little difference.
He said: "What will be the final arbiter of this is whether the people of Northern Ireland want these people on the streets. There is already some sharing of officers, but no-one from the Garda has rushed forward to join the ranks of PSNI or to become chief constable.
"I doubt there will be an avalanche of Garda officers coming forward for this."
Mr Paisley also hit out at his SDLP rival on the policing board. He said: "Alex [Attwood] can engage in his little PR stunts in the Republic of Ireland, but once again he’s always playing catch-up and he’s never in lead."
The move by the Dail will cause David Trimble, the Ulster Unionist leader, further problems as he battles to retain control of his party.
Hardline members want to depose him in order to halt further attempts to restore the power-sharing executive at Stormont. Jeffrey Donaldson, the MP for Lagan Valley, had urged council members to support his motion rejecting proposals by the British and Irish governments at the crunch meeting, saying it was a "defining moment for unionism".
He dismissed a compromise amendment from Mr Trimble which, while refusing to endorse the two governments’ Joint Declaration, does not reject it outright.
If Mr Trimble loses the support of his party’s executive council, it is feared he will resign, sending unionism into fresh turmoil.
Meanwhile yesterday, police said that four men were being questioned by detectives on either side of the Irish border about a huge car-bomb discovered in Londonderry.
As republicans threatened new violence, it emerged that the van used to transport the 1,200lb fully-primed device was bought two days before the foiled attack. Security sources also confirmed that police swooped following a major intelligence operation.
One officer said: "We have had information for some time that dissident republicans were planning a big attack in the area."
Police believe that the Real IRA, the group behind the Omagh atrocity, planned to detonate the massive bomb at Waterside station in Londonderry.
Two men, aged 33 and 24, were arrested in a PSNI operation in the Creggan area of Londonderry as Garda officers across the border in County Donegal questioned another pair, in their early 20s, from the Buncrana area.
The failed attack came just days after the Garda intercepted a 500lb bomb in Co Louth that was destined for Northern Ireland.
Within the past 12 months, Real IRA attacks in Belfast, Londonderry and Dublin have all been foiled, amid growing suspicions that the rogue organisation has been heavily infiltrated by informers.
The 1,200lb device was three times larger than the bomb used in the August 1998 Real IRA attack on Omagh, which killed 29 people including a pair of unborn twins.
Sources close to the terror organisation said there would be no let-up in its campaign. One said: "To doubt our sincerity, our determination, would be rather stupid."
The scale of the bomb pointed to a new determination to intensify the terror campaign, it was claimed.
"The size is indicative of where it was going," one dissident republican said. "People make this big thing about how the Provisional IRA were this and that, but the so-called dissidents are every bit as determined as they were in their day.
"There is a lot of expertise there. Maybe it’s time people sat up and took notice."
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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