Revealed: PSNI hire 200 Garda officers to put down loyalist ‘rebellion’ (Belfast Daily)

Exclusive: the PSNI has drafted in 200 Garda officers to bolster riot squad numbers in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Daily can reveal that the deployment of Irish police specially trained in public order duties followed telephone discussions between PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott and Garda Commissioner Martin Callinan in recent weeks.

The PSNI has come under political pressure to adopt a tougher stance on loyalist protests because of the damage the violence is doing to Northern Ireland’s image abroad.

Senior security sources said the police were now being asked to “put down the loyalist rebellion” before Northern Ireland is engulfed in civil war.

The bill for the Garda officers wages will be met by the Treasury in London under a special security contigency budget.

A senior security source told Belfast Daily that the Garda officers were needed because the PSNI was at “breaking point”.

The PSNI has nine Tactical Support Group (TSGs) units for the whole of Northern Ireland.

The nine TSGs has five landrovers each with five men and women on board.

However, before a re-organisation of the PSNI, the police use to have 25 Mobile Support Unit (MSU) sections totalling around 600 men and women.

More resources could be drafted in from police forces in Scotland and England as police intelligence warns the violence is expected to spread to other parts of Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

The Police Federation is currently lobbying Chief Constable Matt Baggott to hire another 1,000 PSNI officers to bolster their numbers.

Belfast Daily understands that the total bill for policing Union flag protests and the resulting violence has now passed the £10 million mark.

“We only have around 250 officers in the TSGs (Tactical Support Groups) and they have been working flat out for the past month,” said the senior security source.

“Many of the officers hadn’t seen their families for days as they were on 24 hour duty because of the large number of public order situations.

“It has been a logistical nightmare at times trying to get reinforcement into the flashpoint areas because there has been so many protests spread right across the province.

“Then there has been the problem of getting food and water to the officers on the frontline. Wearing those riot uniforms in physically draining on police officers.

“The catering bill is enormous at the moment but we need to support the men and women in the TSGs because they have come such a sustained threat over the past month.

“We now have 200 Garda officers working alongside TSG units. We also have drafted in ordinary uniform officers into the TSGs because of the injuries to officers.’

“I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of more officers coming in from across the water, like Strathclyde Police and West Midlands Police.”

An Garda Siochana is also on alert over a planned protest rally in Dublin next Saturday, January 12 organised by Willie Frazer of the Ulster People’s Forum.

Tensions are already mounting in Dublin as dissident republicans are threatening violence against the loyalist protest.

In a statement issued on Sunday, the Continuity IRA said: “If these loyalists think they can come down they have another thing coming.

“True republicans won’t stand by and let the enemy of our people destroy our nation’s capital.

“We will not be found wanting. Loyalists need to think twice about marching in this city.”

Police arrested eight people during the worst night of violence in east Belfast on Saturday when officers were fired on by loyalist paramilitaries.

A gun man opened up on police lines in the lower Newtownards Road on Saturday afternoon as a third day of trouble erupted.

Belfast Daily can reveal that detectives from the PSNI’s Serious Crime Branch returned to the scene of the shooting on Sunday morning.

Officers from the TSG, wearing purple latex gloves, combed the scene of shooting at Pitt Park on the lower Newtownards Road.

Security sources said they were looking for spent cartridge rounds following the gun attack.

A 38-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder following the gun attack.

Belfast Daily can reveal that PSNI officers arrested him after the police’s ’Hawkeye’ helicopter helped direct search teams to the firing point.

“As soon as he fired the shots, an infrared weapon system (IWS) on ‘Hawkeye’ picked where the shots were fired from,” said a security source.

“The heat from the gun was picked up on the IWS and ‘Hawkeye’ was able to direct police on the ground to the gunman’s exact location.”

The PSNI said officers fired plastic baton rounds three times during the disturbances which came after 1,000 Union flag protestors held a rally at Belfast City Hall.

Loyalists claimed they first came under attack from nationalists in the Short Strand, sparking ten hours of violence in the east of the city.

Water cannon was also used as officers came under attack from over 100 people, throwing petrol bombs, stones and fireworks.

One officer was injured but didn’t require hospital treatment.

Belfast Daily had revealed on Friday that police chiefs had warned frontline officers in east Belfats loyalist paramilitaries were prepared to use live rounds on them

Following the City Hall parade, police dealt with public disorder in a number of locations including Templemore Avenue and the Albertbridge Road.

Bricks, bottles, fireworks and smoke canisters were thrown by the rioters on the Lower Newtownards Road.

On Saturday evening, dissident republicans called for supporters from north and west Belfast to converge in the Short Strand.

Republican sources confirmed to Belfast Daily that hooded men seen in the Short Strand were dissidents from other parts of the city.

Water cannon used to disperse loyalist crowd in east Belfast

“The call went out for people to come and stand with the people of the Short Strand. Things were very hairy at one point,” said the source.

Police Federation chairman Terry Spence said he had no doubt that paramilitaries had been involved in the violence.

He said: “This is a very sinister development and quite clearly the police came under fire this afternoon from a gunman.

“What it clearly does demonstrate is that there has been paramilitary involvement in these attacks on police and it has been orchestrated, in the case of east Belfast, by the UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force).”

However, DUP MLA Robin Newton said it was too early to say whether the violence had been organised.

“I’m going to wait until the police actually indicate that from their intelligence, they haven’t indicated that these riots have been orchestrated by the UVF,” he said.

“We do need to be concerned about the number of injuries on the police officers – this is just not a good situation for the east of the city.”

Three other men were arrested during earlier trouble which happened close to the nationalist Short Strand area.

A car was burnt out on the Albertbridge Road during trouble on Saturday evening

As trouble engulfed the east of the city, 13 people appeared at a special sitting of Belfast Magistrates Court on Saturday night charged in connection with the recent rioting in east Belfast.

Eleven men and one woman were remanded in custody during hearing held in the Royal Courts of Justice.

One woman was released on bail to attend a hospital appointment during the special two-hour sitting was before Judge George Connor.

Nine police officers were injured and 22 people arrested during rioting in east Belfast and Newtownabbey on Friday.

More than 30 petrol bombs and other missiles were thrown at police in east Belfast.

In Newtownabbey, police were attacked by a crowd throwing bricks and bottles.

A campaign of street demonstrations has been ongoing since Belfast City Council took a vote on 3 December which limited the number of days the union flag is flown at Belfast City Hall.

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