Concerns voiced over length of UDA security operation in Carrickfergus

Police at the scene of disturbances in Carrickfergus in early July
Police at the scene of disturbances in Carrickfergus in early July

Political representatives have held discussions with police over the ongoing security operation in the north of Carrickfergus.

They raised concerns about the impact of the so-called ‘ring of steel’ – erected earlier this month following a stand-off involving local elements of the UDA – on the daily life of residents.

DUP Assemblyman David Hilditch said: “There’s growing concern in the community at the length of the ongoing security operation.

“I have spoken to police and understand the situation they find themselves in.

“Is is not something that can be easily sorted out.”

He added that “stop-and-search” patrols on the North Road were particularly frustrating for people in the light of work currently being carried out on the busy route.

Mr Hilditch, who spoke with police locally, also queried the impresssion created for young people and visitors on “seeing armed officers on the streets of the town”.

A PUP delegation met with the PSNI on Friday afternoon to discuss the “negative impact the current policing operation in Carrickfergus is having on communities”.

A spokesperson for the party commented: “Residents are looking for answers as to why they are being followed, why they cannot take their kids out in the car without being stopped, it’s causing frustration.

“Our meeting was to discuss this and make the PSNI aware of these frustrations.”

He added that as a result of the meeting “the PSNI have indicated that patrols cannot be scaled back but they will look at reducing the frequency of the use of Land Rovers”.

In response, Chief Inspector Stephen McCauley said: “There are clearly tensions within Castlemara, and surrounding areas, that need to be addressed and these tensions are causing other residents, and police, an understandable degree of concern.

“We take our responsibility to keep people safe seriously. In doing so, we seek to prevent harm and protect our communities at all times.

“We simply cannot leave unaddressed a situation in which people are causing fear and alarm with threats of violence or intimidation.

“As our policing operation continues I would appeal for local people to work with us and provide information about criminal activity.

“It is only by working together that we can ensure that any criminal activity is appropriately dealt with and that residents are able to go about their normal daily lives unencumbered.”

Meanwhile, it is understood police are not linking Sunday’s rail way alert at Clipperstown Halt to the current security situation.

Trains were stopped and searches conducted after a report that a device had been left on the line. Nothing untoward was found, but the PSNI appealed for the public to be vigilant and to report anything suspicious to them on the 101 number.

A Translink spokesperson said: “A bus substitution service was operated between Belfast and Carrickfergus on Sunday July 24th due to reports of a suspect device at Clipperstown.

“The PSNI requested closure of the rail line at 15.55 and it was reopened at 19.00.”