By David Young, PA
Dissident republicans have issued a threat to the families of serving police officers in Northern Ireland.
A threat from the small dissident grouping Arm na Poblachta was made in a statement to the Irish News newspaper.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland said the threat is being taken seriously and an internal email was issued to staff on Monday alerting them to the development and urging them to be mindful of their security.
It comes almost two weeks after dissidents attempted to murder a senior PSNI detective.
Detective Chief Inspector John Caldwell remains in a critical but stable condition in hospital after being shot several times at a sports complex in Omagh, Co Tyrone.
The largest dissident grouping, the New IRA, claimed responsibility for that attack.
Assistant Chief Constable for the Crime Department Mark McEwan said: “We are taking this threat message seriously and have reminded all officers and staff of their personal safety and security both on and off duty.
“This is a sickening attempt to terrorise our officers and staff. The Police Service of Northern Ireland will not be deterred from delivering a visible and impartial policing service to all communities.”
We condemn the threat to officers & their families by a dissident republican group. @PoliceServiceNI @ChiefConPSNI @SupersAssocNI @NIPolicingBoard @BelTel @News_Letter @irish_news Read in full: https://t.co/i4AV7Onpwq
— Police Federation for Northern Ireland (@PoliceFedforNI) March 7, 2023
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank-and-file officers in the region, condemned the threat.
“The deplorable threat issued by dissident republican thugs to police families marks an escalation in their pathetic rhetoric,” said PFNI chairman Liam Kelly.
“These people, and whoever else collaborates with them in their murderous cabal, point to the bankruptcy of their position.
“They are without purpose, other than to kill and maim officers and now, it seems, their families. They are trying hard to find relevance when they are being shunned.
“Threatening police officers and their families is despicable. Officers work on behalf of everybody without fear or favour. And their families make big sacrifices so that officers can continue to safeguard communities and counter the reckless and profit-inspired gangsters who deliver misery.
“We must work together to rid Northern Ireland of the scourge of paramilitarism and gangsterism, and I would appeal for an all-out community effort to do just that.”
Threats against police officers or their families are completely unacceptable. I know the whole community will stand united in support of the police family and against those who would seek to drag us back. @PSNILisCreagh @PSNIABC @ChiefConPSNI @duponline https://t.co/vtsLN5KEJT
— Jeffrey Donaldson MP (@J_Donaldson_MP) March 7, 2023
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson also condemned the threat.
“It is hard to comprehend the mindset of those who would issue a threat against the families of our police officers,” he said.
“No-one should face such a threat because of their career and neither should their family.
“I know the whole community will stand united against those who would seek to drag us back.
“Those responsible for such threats must be brought to justice and it underscores the need to support the PSNI, both vocally and by pressing the Government to tackle the budget shortfall within policing.”
Sinn Féin policing spokesman Gerry Kelly said: “Reports that the Arm na Poblachta group has issued threats to the families of police officers is absolutely despicable.
“They should publicly withdraw these disgraceful threats, any other threats against police officers, and any intended attacks against anyone. They should pack up and go. There is no place for these groups in our communities.
“Some of these groups are heavily involved in criminality and have strong links to loyalist gangsters and other criminal gangs whose actions are a scourge on our society.
“Anyone with information on the people behind these threats should pass it on to the police.”