Gerry Kelly’s objection to the military being involved in house searches in Londonderry has been dismissed as “illogical” by Gregory Campbell.
The Sinn Fein MLA said that questions needed to be answered by the PSNI over who authorised the deployment of soldiers in the operation against dissident republicans on Wednesday.
Mr Kelly said he intended to raise the issue with the chief constable at the earliest opportunity.
“The Good Friday Agreement and the promise of a new dispensation for policing was about making policing accountable to the community and did not include the British Army. The use of British soldiers in house searches is unacceptable and only makes it more difficult for political leaders and others to achieve genuine policing with the community,” he said.
However, Mr Campbell welcomed the police effort in attempting to recover munitions or explosives.
“This criticism is illogical and ill-considered. Last October I received a Parliamentary answer detailing that military personnel had been deployed in the north-west some 168 times over a five-month period,” he said.
The MP for East Londonderry added: “Since Sinn Fein MPs don’t take their seats in the House of Commons, it would be plausible that they didn’t know about this.
“However, after I received that answer most media outlets in Northern Ireland covered the story extensively.
“Gerry Kelly should cease his faux rage at the soldiers being deployed in Londonderry and instead focus on the reason why there needed to be such a police operation in the first place.”
Mr Campbell’s party colleague Gary Middleton MLA said: “I want to see the police taking a robust stance against those who would peddle terror on our streets. Most people will welcome this latest operation and trust that arrests and convictions will follow.”
A senior PSNI officer said: “The military used are specifically trained in this type of high-risk search, thus ensuring that such searches are conducted in as safe a manner as possible.”