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PSNI chief calls for backup amid fears of Brexit protests at major ports

Chief Constable Simon Byrne said more officers are needed for front-line policing.

PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (left) has expressed concerns about the 'stretched' force ahead of Brexit
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne (left) has expressed concerns about the 'stretched' force ahead of Brexit
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire

POLICE SERVICE OF Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Simon Byrne has appealed for more officers to help the “stretched” force amid fears of Brexit-related protests at ports in the region.

Under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Brexit plan, extra customs regulations could be imposed on goods travelling between Great Britain and the North to safeguard the Irish land border with the EU.

Unionists are adamantly opposed to what they term a border in the Irish Sea.

Byrne said: “It is about turning the lens from the border to the ports, so we will be asking for people.”

He added: “There is a continuing threat from dissident republicans but also potentially for ports… if the arrangements are seen to be adverse to Northern Ireland.”

Mutual aid provisions allow other forces around the UK to augment PSNI numbers if necessary and Byrne said the force is looking at the supply of body armour.

He said: “We need more officers on the front line.”

The North has major ports in Larne in Co Antrim and Belfast, serving traffic from Scotland and north-west England.

The DUP is opposed to Johnson’s Brexit plan, accusing him of facilitating an economic united Ireland.

Policymakers are juggling the need to prevent a hard border between the North and the Republic with unionist concerns about preserving the integrity of the UK.

Extra officers have already been allocated to controlling the Irish border and Byrne said planning is well advanced. He is bidding for extra officers to augment the 300 already granted.

“We are giving it a daily dust-down to make sure we are ready for whatever comes our way,” he said.

Addressing a meeting of the Policing Board in Belfast, which scrutinises his force, he said: “Given where we are, I am as confident as I can be.”

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