Sun, 21 Apr 2019

Northern Ireland police reportedly unhappy with Higgins

Conor Trindle
21 Oct 2018, 12:14 GMT+10

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - The Police Service in Northern Ireland is reportedly angry at reports the Irish president Michael Higgins had to change his travel arrangements to Belfast in May, because of concerns the service could not provide security.

President Higgins said his staff had been told he couldnt be picked up at the border if he travelled by car.

As a result the president flew to Belfast, where his car, driven from Dublin, then picked him up.

Mr Higgins' spokesman told the BBC that "for logistical reasons and on security advice", a jet was used.

"It would be inconceivable that the President of Ireland would not have been afforded security if it had been requested," a PSNI source told the BBC.

Another source told the broadcaster there was anger within the PSNI at the suggestion that it did not have sufficient resources to escort Mr Higgins from the border to Belfast.

The president, who is standing for re-election this Friday 26 October 2018, made the claim during a televised presidential debate on Wednesday night.

A spokesman for Mr Higgins said: "The president has made many visits to Northern Ireland by car and is grateful for the support received from the security services.

"For logistical reasons and on security advice, the president did use the government plane to Belfast in May, to deliver the Harri Holkeri lecture.

"It would not be appropriate to further comment on the detail of security arrangements," the spokesman added.

The police service issued a statement on Friday clarifying its view of the incident.

"It is the long-established policy of the Police Service of Northern Ireland not to comment on the security arrangements made for individuals," the statement said.

"The Police Service of Northern Ireland routinely work with visiting heads of state and other key figures visiting Northern Ireland and make full provisions for their safety in line with their requirements," Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said in the statement.

Mr Higgins was in Belfast on 28 May 2018 to deliver the 6th Annual Harri Holkeri Lecture at Queens University Belfast. The annual lecture was established as a tribute to Finnish Prime Minister Harri Holkeri for the part in played in the Northern Ireland peace process.

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