28/09/2010

Woodward Warning Heralds Border Alert

As the Labour party's NI spokesman warned of an increased threat from republican dissidents, part of the A1 bypass at Newry was closed today because of a security alert.

The discovery of a suspicious object between Carnbane and Forkhill Road roundabouts near the border provided a graphic illustration of the national threat just outlined to today's session of the Labour party conference.

As the Shadow Secretary of State Shaun Woodward (pictured) warned the whole of the UK was at risk from a terrorist attack, the Camlough Road was closed in both directions on either side of the flyover and cross-border Dublin-bound traffic was diverted through Newry for most of the day.

Army bomb experts examined the object - which they later declared a hoax - and the PSNI said it was "a deliberate attempt to cause disruption for members of the public, including through traffic using the busy road nearby".

The PSNI also said a number of stones and other missiles were thrown at police responding to the incident.

The Newry & Armagh DUP MLA, William Irwin, has since condemned those responsible for the elaborate hoax, which he said was a gas cannister with wires attached to it.

Earlier, back in Manchester, the former NIO Secretary revealed there had been more than 30 attacks or attempted attacks by dissidents so far this year, compared to 20 in 2009.
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Mr Woodward said the coalition government must recognise the special circumstances in NI.

He said the Chancellor must give "particular care" to the needs of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review.

"I don't doubt that great efficiency can be found by the PSNI, just as it can by any force in this country but the threat from dissidents, their campaign of violence and murder is a real clear and present danger for the brave men and women of the PSNI and the people of Northern Ireland," he said.

"For the last three years dissident ambition and activity in Northern Ireland has grown, year in, year out.

"These men and women of violence are ruthless. Give them, the RIRA, CIRA the chance and they will kill," he warned.

"Yesterday their targets were mainly security forces, especially the PSNI, Today their targets are broader. Their wreckless intent puts at risk the lives of the public."

Mr Woodward described the threat as "very real".

"Last week the security service raised the threat level in Britain, greater than any time since the Belfast Agreement. They were right to make the assessment, the government right to publish it, so we must be vigilant."

The shadow Secretary of State said the PSNI must have the resources to meet the challenge, not just counter terrorism but community policing.

He said this was vital to combat the threat.

(BMcC/GK)

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