'Police need resources to fight dissidents'

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The police must be given the extra resources they need to take the fight to dissident republicans, the DUP insisted today.

Economy minister Arlene Foster has called on the government to give the PSNI more support to fund a robust campaign against groups such as the Real IRA.

Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has played down the prospect of an additional funding commitment from Westminster as part of any negotiations to devolve policing and justice powers to Stormont.

He said there is already one officer for every 250 people in the region whereas in areas like Merseyside the ratio is 1/450.

Mrs Foster, who along with party colleagues today met police chiefs to discuss the security situation, said the service had to be able to mount a serious campaign against dissidents.

Renegade republicans have attempted to kill ten police officers in the last year, the most recent murder bid coming earlier this month in the Co Fermanagh border town of Lisnaskea when three officers were targeted in a rocket attack.

"Dissident republicans groups pose a significant threat to both the police and the general public," said the Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative.

"The Secretary of State has admitted as much in the House of Commons and the recent attempt to murder police officers in Lisnaskea by way of a rocket-propelled grenade shows that these groups are developing their capacity to inflict injury and damage on people and property.

"The Chief Constable has said that the dissident republicans will be pursued to the ends of the earth - now let's see it backed up with serious and co-ordinated action to take the criminals behind these groups out of circulation and put those involved behind bars were they belong."

Last week DUP North Antrim MLA Ian Paisley jnr caused controversy when he said the community would support the use of lethal force against dissidents if officers came under attack.

Mrs Foster did not go as far in her remarks today but said her party did support strong anti-terrorist measures.

"We therefore have no problem in supporting a serious and robust campaign against these dissident terrorist groups," she added.

"People will be aware that the Provisional IRA itself started out as a splinter group and because it wasn't strangled at birth in the early 1970s it grew.

"Tough action is called for now to eliminate these groups. The police should be given the resources and the support they need to take the fight to the dissident republicans.

"The DUP will continue to monitor the situation closely and we will be meeting with the security minister to discuss the threat posed by these groups and the resourcing of policing in the areas where these groups are most active, specifically in the west of the province."

Mrs Foster was accompanied to her meeting at PSNI HQ in Belfast by party colleagues Lord Morrow, Jimmy Spratt, Thomas Buchanan and Peter Weir.