Political leaders stress need to support police as terrorism threat in Northern Ireland raised

Political leaders have spoken out to condemn paramilitary groups and support the police following the decision to upgrade Northern Ireland's terrorism threat level to 'severe' on Tuesday.

The announcement from M15 follows a recent rise in paramilitary attacks. It means the risk of an attack moves from "likely" to "highly likely".

Political leaders stressed the need to support the police.

Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O'Neill said there "no space or place for paramilitary groups" while DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson called for support for the PSNI.

In a statement, Chair of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, Liam Kelly, said the change should not come as a surprise.

Mr Kelly said: “This is a step backwards which means an attack is highly likely. There are terrorist and crime gangs in our community who wish to inflict great harm on our officers.

“These groups are committed to the money they made through illegal activities and redundant ideas dressed up as political objectives.

"The reality is they are dangerous people committed to undermining society and the safety of our officers who uphold the rule of law.

“Following the cowardly attempted murder of DCI John Caldwell in Omagh, and other attacks on officers, our colleagues have stepped up their personal security and exercise increased vigilance.

"Frankly, no one should be surprised by this latest MI5 intelligence assessment which acknowledges the extent of the challenge.

“This escalation in the threat level is justified. One might reasonably ask why it was downgraded to ‘substantial’ in the first place when it was clear dissident republican groups were still actively wedded to causing murder and destruction.

“Our officers will not be deterred from doing what they have to do on behalf of our communities. They are at the forefront of the effort to rid ourselves of this scourge and I would appeal to the public to give colleagues all the help they can in closing down terrorist and crime gang activities.”

Sinn Féin Vice-President Michelle O'Neill condemned the recent violence from paramilitary groups.

In a tweet, she wrote: "There is no place or space for paramilitary groups in a modern, democratic society."

DUP leader, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson expressed support for the PSNI and Security Services in their work to stop terrorism in Northern Ireland.

“The overwhelming number of people in Northern Ireland want to live at peace with each other and are utterly opposed to violence or the threat of violence.

"I give my full support to the Police and the Security Services as they seek to stop those who are wedded to terrorism and organised crime.

"It is bad news for Northern Ireland when the risk of further attacks moves to 'likely' or 'very likely'.

"I look forward to a day when the threat level is removed but to get there the community must stand with the police and demonstrate there is no space for terrorism in Northern Ireland in 2023.

"The Government made a commitment to help fund 7,500 officers in the PSNI but have not yet made good on that promise. With police officers facing such a threat, now is the time for the Government to provide that additional funding to ensure the PSNI has the full capacity to meet this threat.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood stated the the need to commit to "vocally and publicly to supporting the efforts of the PSNI to disrupt and dismantle these groups".

In a social media video UUP leader Doug Beattie also stressed the need to support the police.

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