Larne Port official manning Irish Sea border ‘put out of home after threat’

An official at Larne Port involved in administering the Irish Sea border checks has been forced out of their home after receiving serious threats, two senior politicians have said.

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 9:00 am
The individual is understood to have lived in the east of Northern Ireland and worked at Larne Port

Several sources said that the individual, who is understood to have lived in an overwhelmingly Protestant area in the east of Northern Ireland, is believed to have been contacted by the PSNI more than a month ago and warned about their safety.

Police last night would not confirm or deny that the individual had been forced out. Nor would the PSNI explain why Chief Constable Simon Byrne, pictured, publicly said there were no credible threats to port staff.

On Wednesday, North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jr briefly referred to the incident during an appearance on RT. Mr Paisley told the Moscow-based broadcaster: “There was a person who worked in the customs office had to be forcibly moved from their home to be protected.”

The DUP MP said he wanted to see an end to threats, describing them as “sinister”, but said the best resolution would be by removing the protocol.

The News Letter asked Mid and East Antrim Council, which also has staff at the port, if it was aware of the issue. In response, the council said: “This would be a matter for the PSNI and we have not been informed of this matter by the PSNI.

“We continue to receive updated threat assessments from the PSNI and consider these alongside council’s own risk assessments, regarding the safety of staff at Larne Port.”

Last night the council’s mayor, Peter Johnson, said it was “disappointing because something as sinister and as serious as someone having to leave their home for their safety was not fed back to council” by the police.

Mr Johnston, a DUP councillor, said: “We found out about this incident after the case. Probably what’s most disappointing is that the information wasn’t coming from the police.”

He said that the threat is believed to have been around the time six weeks ago that the council and DUP minister Edwin Poots controversially pulled staff out of the port because of threats painted on walls.

He said: “It’s now starting to appear – and the reason I’m saying it like this is because to my knowledge this has not yet been confirmed by the PSNI – but we’re currently under the understanding that on either the Saturday or Sunday one of the Border Force port officials was contacted by the PSNI they delivered the threat to him which then led to him having to move out of his house.”

Mr Johnston said it was “a really serious piece of information” which ought to have been shared with the council so that it could decide whether its staff should stay at the port.

When asked about the issue, and about Mr Johnson’s criticism, the PSNI issued a standard response: “We do not discuss the security of individuals and no inference should be drawn from this. However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk.”

The Housing Executive operates the Scheme for the Purchase of Evacuated Dwellings (SPED) which buys houses from owner-occupiers who are forced to leave their home due to intimidation or threats.

Such intimidation was once commonplace in many parts of Northern Ireland but in the 2019-20 financial year just two homes were purchased under the scheme.

A spokesman said: “We cannot comment on individual cases who have applied to the scheme. Applicants for SPED may have a property acquired by us if they meet the criteria for the scheme and have a certificate from the PSNI confirming the intimidation or threat.”

The Home Office said: “We don’t comment on an individual’s security arrangements.”

David Campbell, the chairman of the Loyalist Communities Council, said that he was “totally unaware” of the issue.

Mr Campbell, whose organisation represents the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando but not some smaller dissident factions, told the News Letter: “We deplore any activity that forces people out of their homes.

“One’s home should be sacrosanct and should be respected by everyone, regardless of your beliefs or who you are.

“I have no hesitation in condemning that and in sympathising with the family affected.”

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