Northern Irish limit police holiday after October 31 over Brexit violence fears

PUBLISHED: 16:36 25 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:36 25 September 2019

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is limiting officers' holiday in the weeks after Brexit. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) is limiting officers' holiday in the weeks after Brexit. Picture: Niall Carson/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

The Northern Irish police chief is planning to restrict officers' holiday in the weeks following the UK's exit from the EU over fears of potential "violence activities".

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The move will mean all but 10% of the force will not be able to take holiday in that period, when usually, the leave restriction is 20%.

Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) assistant police chief George Clark described the move as a "sensible operational contingency" which will be kept under review.

The announcement followed numerous previous warnings about policing challenges including an uplift in dissident republican violence and potential public order situations.

Fears for the hard-won peace secured through the Good Friday Agreement have become the hallmark concern of the EU in its negotiations for a withdrawal agreement with the UK.

Clark told the Press Association that a range of potential scenarios have been considered in PSNI's extensive planning, and that there is "undoubtedly an atmosphere of uncertainty around exactly the terms on which the UK will leave the EU".

Clark said as part of that work the potential of an increase in violence of dissident republicans has been considered.

"Violent dissident republicans have been in a situation of posing a severe threat for around 10 years," he said.

"That threat existed before Brexit was a consideration, but there is no doubt that those people may well view Brexit as being another hook on which they can potentially hang their violence activities, could potentially become a rallying cry for them.

"The reality is they pose a very severe threat to us anyway, we devote a substantial amount of effort to trying to keep the community safe and to keep our own officers safe."

The force has already received a £16.5 million funding boost from the Treasury and is set to have recruited an extra 308 officers and staff by April 2020.

Clark thanked his police officers for "putting community first" if their holiday becomes restricted, and said he would keep the measure under active review.

"As soon as we can remove that restriction we will," he said.

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