Dissident republicans ‘hoping’ for hard Irish border, terrorism expert warns

A terrorism expert has warned dissident Republican groups in Northern Ireland are “hoping” for a hard border and would benefit from a return to military rule.

Former Police Superintendent Ken Pennington said elements seen as a forerunner to an attack are in place and that border protests following Brexit would be a “perfect time” for these to happen.

Speaking at a Scottish Police Federation (SPF) conference, Mr Pennington said: “The people who are most quiet about Brexit are the dissident Republican groups.

“It is my opinion they are going to sit back and be quite happy to see it happen and they are hoping for a hard border, because it is a narrative they will use.

“They will show Brexit to be a British imposition on the people of Ireland.”

He told members of the SPF, which represents rank and file police officers, at the conference at Turnberry, Ayrshire, that 30,000 people cross the Irish border daily.

“Our concern is the opportunity this presents to the terrorist groups,” he said.

“A lot of the precursor activities for an attack are already in place.”

He said a spate of ATM robberies in Northern Ireland could be a way of gathering funding for dissident groups.

Large border protests following Brexit would be the “perfect time for them to mount attacks”, he warned, and said targets could include courthouses, government buildings and police stations.

Mr Pennington, who spent 30 years working in Northern Ireland, added: “It would to the dissidents’ benefit to see the military return to the streets.

“It would be a real step backward to get to the point where we reintroduce the military.”

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