The PSNI has justified it's decision to prepare to call on extra resources from elsewhere in the UK should it become necessary after Brexit.
It follows reports from the Guardian yesterday that an additional 1,000 officers from England and Scotland are to begin training for deployment in Northern Ireland in case of disorder in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
In a statement this afternoon Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton assured he doesn't believe mutual aid will be needed, but said putting precautionary procedures in place is sensible.
He confirmed additional resources will be made available from the day the UK leaves the EU in March.
“At the present time, we do not have any reason to believe we will need to request mutual aid during 2019, but putting precautionary procedures in place for it is part of a sensible planning process.
“Planning around mutual aid happens every year across UK policing. If and when it is required, its provision is managed through the National Police Co-ordination Centre (NPCC), based in London.
“Normally the plans are in place for the summer months, but this year, additional resources will be available from the date of the EU Exit at the end of March, in line with national contingency planning.
“Our view is that it is better to have precautionary plans in place and not use them, than find we may need additional police support but cannot have it because we have not alerted the NPCC in advance.
“While we plan for mutual aid, we will only ever use it when it is absolutely necessary and proportionate. This is illustrated by the fact that while mutual aid forms part of PSNI’s planning processes every year, we have only called on it for public order policing in 2013. In that year, the G8 took place in Fermanagh in June and PSNI also faced some significant public disorder linked to parades and protests in July.
“Quite rightly, the public expect their Police Service to make plans to keep them safe in all eventualities and that is what PSNI will continue to do.”
Meanwhile East Antrim MP Sammy Wilson has said there is nothing to suggest the 1,000 officers available to the PSNI under the mutual aid scheme will be required after the United Kingdom leaves the EU.
“It is unsurprising that the PSNI have attempted to downplay the mutual aid application. An application is made each year, but additionally this comes after the Chief Constable got all the extra funding he had previously requested. That funding will allow the recruitment of an additional 308 officers and staff.
Some reporting of the application was accompanied by images of police officers tackling outbreaks of major public disorder. There is nothing to suggest any such events following our exit from the European Union. Both the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom have said they will not impose any new infrastructure at the border which could be the focus of any attack so it is difficult to ascertain what eventualities the officers would train for.
It is important that people do not needlessly create alarm. Over the last few days we have seen some old tactics being used in the New Year. From the Secretary of State to Michael Gove and anyone else the government can persuade, we are subjected to a daily diet of how cataclysmic it would be to reject the Prime Minister’s Withdrawal Agreement.
Such tactics are as fruitless as they are transparent. They didn’t work before Christmas and they won’t fool Parliament now either.”