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Monday, January 30, 2023

Brexit fallout could raise Northern Ireland tensions – Hugh Orde

The fall-out from Brexit has real potential to cause instability in Northern Ireland and raise tension, former chief constable Sir Hugh Orde has said.

He added: “The lack of local governance does not help.”

Sir Hugh, who led the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) for seven years from 2002, made his comments during a speech in Belfast.

He said the situation could “inevitably put additional pressure on policing”.

Sir Hugh was in Belfast to give the annual Seamus Mallon memorial lecture at Ulster University.

Mr Mallon was a long-term deputy leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party and served as deputy first minister of Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland is without a power-sharing government because of a stand-off over the Northern Ireland Protocol, the rules that oversee trade coming in and out post-Brexit.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is refusing to return to Stormont’s power-sharing executive government until those Brexit rules, known as the Northern Ireland Protocol, are scrapped or changed.

‘Additional pressure on policing’

In September, PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan said loyalist paramilitaries likely played a role in organising protests rallies against the protocol earlier in 2022.

Recently, PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne stated police did not detect a heightened threat of violence from loyalists, but that officers remained vigilant.

Budget problems could see police numbers drop by 1,000 over the next three years to 6,000, well below the lowest level at any point in the PSNI’s history.

Speaking at Ulster University, Sir Hugh said: “It is not for me to comment on the tactics deployed by the different political parties to deal with the current arrangements that were agreed by the government during the leave negotiations.

“But the fallout has the real potential to destabilise communities, increase tension and inevitably put additional pressure on policing.”

He went on: “Trying to fix a problem that was so blindingly obvious to anyone that had the most basic understanding of what leaving the EU would mean post-event will be difficult, bordering on impossible, in my judgement.

“I hope the uncertainty created by these political failures are not seen as an opportunity by that tiny minority who want to drag us backwards.

“What I do know is that the PSNI will be there to protect all the citizens of this wonderful place and continue to play their part in what is still a fragile peace.”

On Wednesday, the director general of MI5, Ken McCallum, described the “political situation” in Northern Ireland as “challenging at present”.

He said the security service was continuing to monitor “all potential threats” and investigate “any that reach the national security threshold”.

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