30/06/2010

PSNI Roadblock Officer 'Seriously Ill'

A Sinn Fein Stormont Minister has slammed those behind a cross border smuggling attempt that has left two police officers injured - one of them very seriously.

Conor Murphy, the MP for Newry Armagh was commenting on the incident at Low Road in Meigh last night in which two members of the PSNI were injured: "The incident, which has occurred following a multi-agency operation against smuggling, is to be condemned.

"As a result two police officers have been badly injured, one of whom is in a critical condition. Our thoughts are with those who are injured," the MP said.

"We would expect that a full investigation into what happened will reveal more information.

"I understand that two people have been arrested and I welcome the fact that a significant amount of illegal cigarettes has been seized."

As police on both sides of the Irish border continue searching for the driver of the vehicle which struck the two officers, the PSNI has also hit out at those responsible for mowing down the two officers - while fleeing through a customs checkpoint in south Armagh, they "didn't care who they killed", a spokesperson said.

The PSNI said that both officers were struck by a speeding van which failed to stop outside premises that were about to be searched for suspected illegal cigarettes, at about 12.45pm on Tuesday near Meigh village.

A critically injured officer was airlifted first to Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry and then transferred to Belfast's Royal Victoria.

A second officer was also taken to Daisy Hill, where he was later discharged.
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"These officers were doing their utmost to prevent and tackle crime in the south Armagh area, but unfortunately those involved were prepared to risk the lives of these officers to make good their escape," said PSNI Sector Commander for south Armagh, David Beck.

"Their actions are in sharp contrast to the actions of these officers - officers commit themselves daily when working in the community in Northern Ireland, and indeed in south Armagh, to make this place safer for everyone."

Almost 7.5m smuggled cigarettes were recovered from a property, while the van was recovered a short time later - across the border in Dromad. The PSNI said that a 17-year-old boy and 39-year-old man have been arrested.

The BBC has reported today that a weekend surveillance operation was mounted on a cargo of smuggled cigarettes that had arrived from China into Dublin Port.

It is believed it was then watched by customs officers in the Irish Republic as it was brought to Dundalk and then, the container was taken across the border to warehouses near Meigh.

It is understood a number of armed PSNI officers and revenue officials raided the warehouse as the cigarettes were being unloaded.

The driver of one lorry drove through a roller door as he escaped and hit the two PSNI officers, who were outside.

The lorry drove the short distance to the border at high speed. However, as the driver was turning the truck into a yard in the Irish Republic, he lost control and the lorry ended up on its side.

DUP chairman of the Assembly Justice Committee, Lord Morrow, described the incident as "appallingly brutal, carried out purely to evade justice".

SDLP Newry and Armagh MLA Dominic Bradley also condemned the attack.

Ulster Unionist MLA for the area, Danny Kennedy branded the incident "worrying".

Justice Minister David Ford said: "This incident brings home the dangers that police officers face day and daily in serving all the people of Northern Ireland."

(BMcC)

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