“They’re building themselves up and we’re being scaled back.”

BBC NI Newsline’s Conor McAuley has spoken to one of the 8 police officers who were on patrol in 4 cars when they came across masked and armed men at a paramilitary checkpoint in Meigh, near Newry. From the BBC article

There has been much speculation about why the officers who spotted the gunmen in Meigh did not wait for reinforcements before confronting them. The officer I spoke to said that is because the eight officers on patrol that night was virtually the full compliment of police available in the whole of south Armagh on Friday night. There is a marked police car operating in Newry, but it mostly deals with calls in the city itself.

There is also an armed response unit, the Special Operations Branch, which would be fully trained in anti-terrorist techniques, but its nearest base is some distance away, so unless they had already been in the area, it would have taken some time for them to reach the border, had the incident escalated into a gunfight.

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  • Dread Cthulhu

    IOW, the streets have been ceded to the dogs.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Isle of Wight, you can’t cede what you don’t own.

  • exile

    More startling details from McAuley’s report:

    [i]As one of the gunmen waved for the police to come on, the officer radioed his colleagues what he had seen, turned and drove out of the area.

    There has been much speculation about why the officers who spotted the gunmen in Meigh did not wait for reinforcements before confronting them.

    The officer I spoke to said that is because the eight officers on patrol that night was virtually the full compliment of police available in the whole of south Armagh on Friday night.

    There is a marked police car operating in Newry, but it mostly deals with calls in the city itself. [/i]

    8 police officers covering the whole of south Armagh? Unbelievable. Such information can only be embolden these thugs. Watch out for repeat performances across the north in the coming weeks.

  • aquifer

    So some ‘RA remnant is inviting the Brits back to South Armagh, or wants to graduate from the political red finger painting class straight to catholic martyr. The stupidest thing we could do is to oblige them now.

    Lets wait till the MOD bring back some interesting drones from Afghanistan. Maybe they’ll let us all watch on U-Tube.

  • SOBstory

    Your some use Baker,

    “There is also an armed response unit, the Special Operations Branch,…. but its nearest base is some distance away”

    Couldn’t you be a bit more specific?

  • alan56

    Bet that cop is in trouble now !

  • alan56

    BTW was at Tesco Knockagoney tonight. About 10 police officers handing out info about crimestoppers. They told me the idea was to ‘educate’ the public to call crimestoppers if the incident was not urgent, as this would save on police resources. All the while South Armagh had about 10 operational police officers on a Friday night. Amazing.

  • eranu

    this is the level of policing that the SDLP and SF have been working for, well done lads. 8 policemen for S Armagh and 1 marked car for newry is their idea of good policing numbers apparently. remember sdlp picketing outside police stations a few years back to get them closed? These parties were actually calling for a reduction in police numbers. anywhere else in the world and people would be looking at them and asking “Are you mental?”

  • michael

    “About 10 police officers handing out info about crimestoppers”

    Saw 10+ (3 bikes, 2 jeeps) standing around 3 cones on the airport road during the tall ships.
    They moved the cone, then they moved it back.

    I thougth Thatcher smashed those ‘union jobs’ in the 80s 😉

    “this is the level of policing that the SDLP and SF have been working for, well done lads.”

    Shinners are shinners.
    But perhaps the SDLP want to tackle the same crap in the PSNI thats rampant in NIPS, guys on 60+ grand a year with final salary pensions doing low grade civil service paper shuffling.
    Taking that money and plowing it into actual front line cops.

  • one of the guys

    I’m entirely sure that all of the keyboard warriors on here tonight, particularly Pete Baker, would have launched straight into ther heavier-armed and larger crowd of dissidents had they been one of the PSNI officers involved.

    Then again, pigs might fly….

  • alan56

    What would have happened if this was south of the border? The Irish Army would probably have been deployed. Mabe PSNI should do a deal with Irish Army to provide back-up.

  • George

    Shock, horror, disbelief, the GFA was not in full and final settlement.

    I don’t know why people are surprised that if the British want to hold Northern Ireland they are going to have to provide the security presence necessary.

    It’s British rule or a vacuum and that won’t change simply because the the centre continue to have fanciful notions of Northern Ireland somehow managing to “rule” itself in a somewhat devolved manner.

    “If only they’d face down these thugs,” I hear them say.

    This is one of those situations where you are either going to have British ying or Irish yang.

    I wish the PSNI luck in trying to be all things to all men.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Oh, for the good old days of the “Dirty War”! A few 22 Hereford lads and a gimpy and we could just leave what remained to the birds. The sooner the go ahead is given to take out these scum the better.

  • exile

    [i]I’m entirely sure that all of the keyboard warriors on here tonight, particularly Pete Baker, would have launched straight into ther heavier-armed and larger crowd of dissidents had they been one of the PSNI officers involved. [/i]

    Do you miss the point often or is just tonight? No one in their right mind could criticise those officers on the ground who found themselves in this situation. I have yet to see anyone do so on this site.

    Maybe in future you could actually read what’s been written before jumping in with your two cents’ worth. Then again, pigs might fly…

  • aquifer

    Why make death so sudden? Equalise fuel taxes both sides of the border, a few income tax enquiries, welfare investigations, plenty of touts, have the Criminal Assets Bureau grate some of the bigger cheeses, and they will die more miserably and sorrier than the rest of us.

    They want to waste their time spectacularly, lets have them waste their lives waiting for the knock at the door and smelling the underarms of their lawyers.

  • Dave

    Absolutely II just ask SAS Cap´n Herbert Westmacott.

  • fin

    has anyone who was stopped come forward as a witness? the police appear to know what was on the leaflets, but I can’t find any statements/accounts from people who were stopped, all the stories seem to be from the police

    Aren’t these excercises normally done for propaganda purposes, have the IRA issued a statement yet.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    So now the armchair generals from the previous thread know why their comments were so daft.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    BG: “So now the armchair generals from the previous thread know why their comments were so daft. ”

    Yeah… because the PSNI is a public relations organization, not a police force.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Dave,
    You’d be better of asking British agents like Adams, McGuinness, Scappaticci, O’Braidaigh, McKevitt et al. They know which side their breads buttered on and who pays the pension. I don’t think the SAS or indeed any of the British Army had to surrender arms! We won the war, it’s over, and no matter how much you may dislike it, there is still a Northern Ireland and it’s still in the U.K.

  • dunreavynomore

    Fin I have seen two of the leaflets from people who had been stopped.The big question is how many people rang up to report the checkpoint and how many have come forward since and the answer appears to be none to the first question or the psni in the cars would have been warned and probably none is also the answer to the second question. This raises questions about how deep support for the psni runs in sth armagh no matter what the shinners claim. It would be unusual for witnesses to come forward in this area on an issue like this, again no matter what the shinners want, even their own members would not come forward on this.
    The leaflet was a thick white paper and the printing appeared to be from a word processor. fadas had been added in by pen.
    It is interesting to hear a different story from a psni man who was there than from hughie orde.

    I.I., Yes there is still a northern ireland and the forces of your u.k still cannot patrol parts of itso not that much has changed.

  • Turgon

    There is little doubt that the police officers were wise not to confront these terrorists as they were not equipped to do so. Indeed even with the RUC’s level of experience, equipment and training there is no doubt they would have thought carefully before confronting such a gang: the prospects for multiple deaths (Including by standers) would have been very high.

    Now no doubt the terrorists who performed this stunt would like to attract back the army. However, that is in part what states have armies to deal with. Had the police been able to rapidly call on a large number of soldiers then the terrorists might have been apprehended: or if the terrorists knew that the army could easily be called in they might not have gone for such a show of strength.

    Just because the terrorists want to force the army to be brought back does not mean that it may not have to be done. If the alternative is ceding the streets to armed bands of criminals then bringing back the army may be the least worst scenario.

    Pretending “normalisation” when a group of seven heavily armed terrorists can take over a town is not sensible.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I doubt that back in the days of the RUC, the officers then would have done any different. Officers on patrol are simply not set up to take on gangs of people armed with machine guns and rocket launchers. It was true then and it is equally true now. You can’t have a heavily armoured PSNI unit showing a heavy presence in that part of the world either, because that is not wanted by the nationalist electorate there. Outside of that, taking these people on in this manner is the job of the army, and frankly, putting the army in there and starting a firefight is exactly what the dissidents want; the possibility of a bystander, or even one of their own number, getting killed plays right into their hands.

    There are better ways to tackle the dissidents rather than rising to their provocation and attempts to portray themselves as an army, and the PSNI are, I presume, calculating that facing them head on is not the way to proceed. The way to stop these people is to gather intelligence and evidence on them, arrest them and prosecute them in court. This requires support from within the community.

    The PSNI have to skirt a fine line between maintaining law and order and keeping happy the electorate who do not want to see in-your-face jackboot policing.

    alan:

    BTW was at Tesco Knockagoney tonight. About 10 police officers handing out info about crimestoppers. They told me the idea was to ‘educate’ the public to call crimestoppers if the incident was not urgent, as this would save on police resources. All the while South Armagh had about 10 operational police officers on a Friday night. Amazing.

    I would be surprised if they were advocating Crimestoppers for this. Crimestoppers is not the police, it is an intermediary run by a charity where people can report information if they do not want to go directly to the police. The police have their own line for reporting non-urgent crime, 0845 600 8000. Is it possible you misunderstood ?

    Go along to any DPP meeting anywhere in Belfast and you will hear, not about dissidents or even loyalists (who control a much larger crime empire as well as enjoying greater support than all the republican micro groups put together), but about the normal crime that bugs people every day – burglary, vandalism, car theft, joyriding, anti social behaviour, etc. If you ask most people if they want resources allocated away from the detection and prevention of these crimes and instead dedicated to playing hide and seek with toy soldiers in Armagh, you’ll find that it’s not what they want. The police appearing in public, in shopping centres and at other events, is all part of what they are being asked to do – to make themselves visible and approachable within the community.

    The remaining problem that the police have, as I have been saying lately, is the lack of a political base. They are still substantially controlled by a politician in London who is afraid to take any major decisions due to the mandate he himself lacks. Few people know who the justice minister is, and why do you think we never hear from him, even in the thick of relatively serious events like this ? There is a vacuum in control over policing and this can only be addressed when the powers are devolved and we’ve got someone local we can blame.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    We sort of posted across purposes there.

    We agree that it is the army’s job to take on serious threats like this. But there are few unionists, including in the TUV, who would publicly support the idea of the army being sent into loyalist strongholds to root out the paramilitaries there. I bet you can’t name a single unionist politician who has called for this to be done.

    This is why rushing to deploy the army in this instance would have been the wrong decision; it’s perceived as a “unionist” thing to do. I would love to see the police and army launching an action to root out paramilitaries across the country, but neither nationalist nor unionist politicians would support it.

    One compromise (to deal with dissidents) might be to have the Irish army called in, with a senior PSNI officer asserting full operational command. This would provide the necessary backup as well as defuse the stuff about the British army. Interesting legal problems to overcome, but outside of these I’d bet your lot wouldn’t have it for a second.

  • Turgon

    Comrade Stalin,

    No my lot would not have it (Irish army). Then again I would be more than happy for the (British) army to help deal with loyalist terrorists. If I ever get elected I would also be happy to say it: that would of course require me to stand first and Elenwe would ban that; though now we have been married for seven years it may be time to start ignoring her.

  • NCM

    So did the guys manning the checkpoint at least offer the cops some pamphlets? Seems rude otherwise.

  • The Raven

    “Go along to any DPP meeting anywhere in Belfast and you will hear, not about dissidents or even loyalists (SNIP) but about the normal crime that bugs people every day – burglary, vandalism, car theft, joyriding, anti social behaviour, etc”

    A good point Comrade. I work with the community and voluntary sector and this is constantly the cry. Now we see the emergence of council-supported Community Wardens – Belfast, Derry, Banbridge, Moyle, Omagh, Limavady and other places. It’s cheap policing by any other name.

    I am just surprised at the “what? only 10 police officers?” cries on here. Anyone living outside of the main urban areas has been living with this for years. Even before the re-structuring began. Have I picked up correctly that the next round of downsizing will leave around 2500 police officers to cover NI? (Please correct me if I am wrong.) If that IS correct – and I hope I am wrong – then dissidents, for the ordinary joe on the street, may be the last thing on their minds.

  • Guest

    would also be happy to say it: that would of course require me to stand first and Elenwe would ban that; though now we have been married for seven years it may be time to start ignoring her. -Turgon;

    Welcome to politics!

  • 0b101010

    From the article:

    There is also an armed response unit, the Special Operations Branch, which would be fully trained in anti-terrorist techniques, but its nearest base is some distance away, so unless they had already been in the area, it would have taken some time for them to reach the border, had the incident escalated into a gunfight.

    This implies that no request was made for support from the Special[ist] Operations Branch and that there may indeed have been no communication with them at all. Why not?

    We know already that the incident didn’t escalate into a gunfight without intervention — the polite way to put “running away” — there is nothing about calling and waiting for support that would have changed this up until the point they arrived.

  • How about a special border zone (10 miles either side) and create a “border police force” with armed members from the PSNI and Garda (or use EU troops for the politically sensitive) and saturate the area. It would be a great deterrent plus provide security and employment.

    Those attention-seeking morons need to disappear.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Turgon,

    No elected unionist representative has ever said that the army should be used to deal with loyalists, and no unionist elected representative ever will.

    Raven,

    that figure doesn’t sound right, it’s about one-quarter of the current headcount (9500). According to Wikipedia the RUC was initially restricted to 3000 put peaked at 8500 with a full time reserve of 4500. There is no way the figure can go down to anywhere near 2500 while paramilitary organizations continue to be active and armed.

  • Big Maggie

    Comrade Stalin,

    “No elected unionist representative has ever said that the army should be used to deal with loyalists, and no unionist elected representative ever will.”

    That’s arguably the bleakest statement I’ve seen on Slugger in a long while. It doesn’t even require explanation.

  • Seimi

    Why are you so surprised a Mhaggie Mhóir?

  • Big Maggie

    Seimi,

    I’m not surprised, simply saddened because it encapsulates why NI will never become a normal society.

  • Big Maggie

    Just to add to that comment before I forget.

    I listened to Alex Maskey on Nolan this morning. The subject was integrated education. Maskey was praising McGuinness for having done so much (“more than anybody in twenty-five years”) to promote integrated schools.

    So far so good. But then the Fat Boy asked Alec if he’d recommend that parents send their sprogs to an integrated school. Oh no, that’s up to the parents, etc etc, quoth Maskey. Thereby spoiling completely his fulsome praise of Marty.

    What hope is there? Sorry, I’m a bit blue today; blame the weather.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    Big Maggie: “That’s arguably the bleakest statement I’ve seen on Slugger in a long while. It doesn’t even require explanation. ”

    Feh — you’ll not find a Republican with the balls to unleash the police of AK-47 toting hoods, Maggie.

    I do find it amusing that the same folks who think a Loyalist band marching is a horror to behold are strangely mutes about Republican “street theater,” complete with automatic rifles and rocket launchers.

    Funny old world, innit?

  • Maggie,

    The fact that Maskey can get away with that claim about integrated education is perhaps the most depressing part of that whole interview.

  • The comments in reference to 22 SAS and bringing in the Irish army avoid the core issue which is that there are no resources available because Blair and Broon have committed UK forces to unwinnable operations in Helmand. The Canadian parliament has voted to cease major operations in Kandahar by early 2011 and maybe it’s time the UK starting thinking about fixing problems at home too.

  • Neil

    So far so good. But then the Fat Boy asked Alec if he’d recommend that parents send their sprogs to an integrated school. Oh no, that’s up to the parents, etc etc, quoth Maskey.

    But he also pointed out that his own kids went to Irish medium schools. He couldn’t very well turn around and say that putting kids in integrated schools was the solution to NI’s problems, when that is a statement that he and the majority of his supporters clearly disagree with, as evidenced by their actions as opposed to their words.

    He’s a politician at the end of the day, popularity rules. There was more controversy (IMO) in his bigging up Marty as having done so much for Integrated schools, and attacking the Alliance’s efforts on the various quangos. But even then he did well in painting a picture of SF being supportive of integrated education given he had little to work with. Conversely the Alliance fella didn’t do himself justice at all.

  • steve white

    so when the did call for armed back up and they arrived the bandits were gone???

  • Neil

    They got no response from their report of the incident and met up with the other cars in the area and headed back to base in a group

  • boobfeatures

    I thought the dissidents where completely infiltrated by the brits. Doesn’t look this way in south Armagh.

  • steve white

    no response the police rang the police and got no response???

  • K man

    The only comment on this thread with any measure of composure, insight, judgment and common sense comes from Comrade Stalin.

    Its all too easy to make a knee jerk half-baked post on a topic most are ill placed to comment on, rather than appreciating the enormous complexity of the issue and saving the brain sneeze for another post.

    Compliments to you Stalin. Unfortunately the immature opinions and wild, rambling speculative comments on slugger are the norm, rather than the exception.

  • Comrade Stalin

    K man, thanks.

    Big Maggie, I wasn’t really intending to be bleak, but to highlight something which I think is important. The only way that real action can be taken against paramilitarism, the only way it can be properly rooted out, is if there is an agreed strategy which is applied equally to paramilitaries of all flavours. Unionists won’t have that. Any time the police, let alone the army, have launched an action against loyalists recently, they have complained – a problem which Turgon, John East Belfast and other unionist contributors here steadfastly refuse to address or even acknowledge.

    Dread:

    Feh—you’ll not find a Republican with the balls to unleash the police of AK-47 toting hoods, Maggie.

    I don’t think it’s a case of balls, at least not the kind you are thinking of. What we need, and what we do not presently have, is a locally inspired and agreed strategy on how all paramilitarism can be removed from our society. If you are seen to be kicking in republican doors, but not loyalist doors – even if the grounds for doing so stand up – the problems you create will be bigger than the ones that you solve. That goes back again to what I said to Turgon.

    Again, and I know we talked about this before, this is not a plain old law and order problem.

  • Turgon’s wife.

    No supper for you tonight boyo. And the dog is sleeping with me so his kennel is available.