Northern Ireland Assembly Deputy First Minister and Sinn Fein MP Martin McGuinness yesterday slammed the redeployment of British Army Special Forces in the North as a ‘danger to the community’.
He was responding to Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde’s request for support from the Special Reconnaissance Regiment, allegedly to help gather intelligence on dissident republicans.
McGuinness reacted angrily to the decision, calling it ‘stupid and dangerous’, warning that army special forces are a ‘major threat’.
He added that the move had ‘shaken his confidence’ in Orde, and he had raised the matter with Prime Minister Brown and the Taoiseach, Brian Cowen.
McGuinness stressed: ‘The history of the North has shown that many of these forces have been as much a danger to the community as any other group.’
Sinn Féin Policing spokesperson and South Belfast MLA Alex Maskey added that the move was both a ‘backward step’ and ‘deeply worrying to the Nationalist and Republican community’.
Maskey said: ‘This is a matter of grave concern in particular for the nationalist and republican community given the legacy of British Special Forces here in Ireland.
‘Sinn Fein remains opposed to any such deployment of these forces and remains committed to ensuring that the PSNI is held to account for an effective, efficient and non-political policing service.
‘We have raised these concerns this morning with both governments.
‘I have also spoken with the Chief Constable Hugh Orde and conveyed to him in no uncertain terms our opposition to this deployment and indeed the manner in which this has entered the public domain.
‘Like many others, I was a victim of so-called British Special Forces, who colluded with Unionist murder gangs in attempts to murder me and my family.
‘There can be no place for these types of groups within any civic and non-political policing service.’
The nationalist SDLP said the decision to send the regiment to the North ‘raises the issue of who is in control’.
A SDLP statement said: ‘At lunchtime on Thursday, the PSNI were telling the Policing Board the British Army would not be deployed save for bomb squad support. But by teatime we learn that British Army recon units are deployed.
‘There is an immediate issue of who made this decision, when it was made and what the PSNI did not know or knew and did not tell the Policing Board.’
DUP board member Ian Paisley Jr, said the alleged dissident republican threat was a ‘national security issue, not a matter for the policing board’.