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DUP attack on south Armagh ‘cheap political stunt’ as policing review is praised

Police car rammed in Crossmaglen

Criticism has been directed at a DUP MLA who said the ramming of patrol cars in south Armagh has coincided with the rollout of a review of policing in the area.

Keith Buchanan was among a number of DUP MLAs to bring a motion to the Assembly calling on Justice Minister Naomi Long to consider stronger custodial sentences for those who weaponise vehicles to target police officers.

However, Mr Buchanan singled out south Armagh for particular reference.

“We welcome the opportunity to throw a spotlight on the actions of those who use their vehicles as weapons to target and attack police officers in south Armagh and throughout Northern Ireland,” he said, while introducing the motion.

“It is unacceptable that vehicles are weaponised against the police or emergency services.

“It is no exaggeration to say that the threat posed by those who turn their vehicles into weapons is just as serious and as real as those who discharge firearms or plant bombs.”

However, Mr Buchanan’s reference to south Armagh was strongly rebuked by Newry and Armagh MLA Justin McNulty who described it as the DUP “attempting to score cheap points at south Armagh’s expense”.

Mr. McNulty took strong objection to the DUP’s narrative that appeared to blame the South Armagh Policing Review for the ramming of police vehicles.

Said Mr McNulty: “I don’t know what the DUP were trying to accomplish by villainising south Armagh as being a world apart from the rest of the north, when we all know that attacks against police officers are far too common across the board.

“The South Armagh Policing Review has achieved a lot, and there is more to do to implement that report fully. What the DUP have done with their stunts at Stormont doesn’t help to improve policing, in fact, it undermines what the PSNI themselves are saying.

“Violence and attacks against police officers are completely intolerable. Instead of lacing the boot into south Armagh, it would have made far more sense for the DUP to address these issues constructively.

Mr McNulty’s party colleague, Pete Byrne said the South Armagh Policing Review has changed the face of policing in the area.

Councillor Byrne said: “Given the success of the South Armagh Policing Review it’s incredibly disappointing to see the DUP using attacks on police as an opportunity to play politics and to reverse some of the progress that’s been made.

“Attacks on police should be condemned in the strongest possible terms, but the way to address these issues is not through Assembly motions like this.

“I have engaged extensively with local PSNI teams on issues around the ramming of vehicles and police chases and they have confirmed to me that they’ve applied for more liveried vehicles to keep the public safe when incidents of this nature occur.

“This motion goes totally against what the PSNI themselves are saying and does not reflect the views of people in south Armagh.

“What we should be focused on and what will actually help improve the situation in south Armagh is implementing the outstanding recommendations from the policing review. We have around 80% of the recommendations now in place and it has completely changed the face of policing this community. We won’t be going backwards.”

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