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Former PSNI chief warns that hard border could reignite violence

Hugh Orde said police could be targeted.

Hugh Orde
Hugh Orde
Image: Oli Scarff

THE FORMER CHIEF constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland has warned that the return of a hard border in the North risks a resumption violence in the area.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio 1’s This Week programme, Hugh Orde said recreating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic would have “huge consequences in terms of security” and police and customs officers “would become a target”.

“There is no way that I can see to have a soft border unless you have equality in terms of customs and freedom of movement,” he told the programme.

Orde said it would not be possible to put cameras or technology on the border without police, or some other form of security to protect them.

Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered this afternoon at the Dundalk-Newry border to protest against the prospect of any type of border in the outcome of a hard Brexit.

Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB) encouraged people from cross-border populations to come and express their “fears and concerns” about the potential for a hard border in Ireland.

The group estimated that around 1,500 people were in attendance. 

A mock eight-foot wall and army watchtower were built to make “a stand against Brexit, against borders, against division”.

Orde said a physical barrier would be unavoidable if there was to be a hard brexit. He also warned of a resumption of violence. 

“There’s nowhere to my knowledge in the world where a purely technological solution to the issue of a border has been achieved. You can do a certain amount with technology but you still need an element of policing to deal with determined criminals and people who take advantage of a privileged status.”

“There would have to be some form of customs presence and of course there are huge consequences to that in the context.”

“In my judgement you would have to see some form of physical barrier like exists in many parts of the world where international barriers are a routine part of everyday policing and security”

“History tells us that [borders] are by definition targets.”

Asked if dissidents would view a hard border as an opportunity for them to mount further attacks he said:

“At the moment you see anything that starts to create the perception of a hard distinction between North and South, it creates a catalyst that allows people to exploit that position and certainly dissident republicans would be in that category.”

“Worryingly we saw a car bomb only last week in Derry and that is a statement that things are going to get more difficult not less. A hard border, if I was the chief of Northern Ireland’s police force would worry me greatly.”

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