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Catholic PSNI officers not sent to own communities due to dissident threat

Catholic police officers in Northern Ireland are not sent to their home communities due to the threat from dissident republican terrorists, Ireland’s justice committee has heard.

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said in an ideal world a Gael from Co Tyrone would be stationed there.

However, he said this is not the case due to the threat from dissidents.

Two Catholic PSNI constables, Stephen Carroll and Ronan Kerr, have been killed by dissidents – while a third, Paedar Heffron, was maimed in a car bombing.

The threat level from dissidents in Northern Ireland remains assessed as severe.

Mr Todd made his remarks in response to a question from independent TD Mick Wallace as he appeared before Ireland’s justice committee in Dublin for the first time alongside Assistant Garda Commissioner Patrick Leahy.

Mr Wallace asked him whether there is a challenge around where police officers can be placed in which communities, or was that not a factor.

Mr Todd responded: “We have concerns which is particularly from young Catholic officers, where they might be policing the area where their family lives, because that has been used to target family members through paramilitary groupings, particularly with dissident republican groups.

“Dissidents have targeted families because their young folk have joined the police service.

“In terms of where we send our people to police, we don’t make any distinction between what background they come and what area they police unless there is a concern – if you are from that town we tend not to send you to police that town because of the problem that it brings.

“Ironically, it flies in the face of community policing because what you want, in a perfect world a young Gael who comes from Co Tyrone and plays in the local GAA club and has gone to the local school and joined the police service would be back serving the local community – that’s what you would want but that’s not – whilst we have a particular emphasis and a particular set of problems in Northern Ireland I know it crops up in other jurisdictions from time to time when criminal elements target families of police officers for a range of reasons, but it certainly sharper and much more pronounced than elsewhere.”

Picture: The Police Service Northern Ireland crest. (Paul Faith/PA).