Taoiseach condemns "outrageous and cowardly" shooting of PSNI officer

Northern Ireland's chief Constable says a high-velocity rifle was used in the attack

Taoiseach condemns "outrageous and cowardly" shooting of PSNI officer

PSNI tape around a car after a police officer was shot in the arm at a petrol station on the Crumlin Road in north Belfast | Image: PA PA Wire/PA Images

Updated 15:05

There has been widespread condemnation after a police officer in Northern Ireland was shot on Sunday night.

Police say up to 10 shots were fired by a high-velocity rifle in the attack and a 36-year-old man has been arrested.

The community policeman sustained a number of gunshot wounds to his arm and underwent emergency surgery in the Royal Victoria Hospital, where his condition is described as stable.

He was on duty with a colleague in north Belfast when gunmen mounted a "reckless" drive-by gun attack at a petrol station on Crumlin Road.

Officers are treating it as attempted murder, and say their main line of enquiry is focusing on dissident republicans.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland's Chief Constable, George Hamilton, told reporters the officer's body armour may have saved him from further harm.

He added that he was pleased he had been able to have a conversation with the officer, who will need further surgery.

"He is in a fairly serious condition regarding injuries to his right arm. The officer appears to have been struck, probably three times, on the right arm causing fairly significant damage to the arm," said Mr Hamilton.

Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton, from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, said: "This wasn't just an attack upon the police but very clearly an attack upon the community.

"Other lives could easily have been lost tonight, reckless, madness.

"I can assure this community that every resource we have is being turned to face this now, to find these people and bring them to justice."

The Taoiseach Enda Kenny has condemned the shooting, calling it an "outrageous and cowardly act".

"Anyone with any relevant information should pass it on to the PSNI immediately. I hope the officer involved makes a full and swift recovery", Mr Kenny said.

Belfast-based security correspondent Alan Murray told Newstalk Breakfast the incident is isolated, but nevertheless concerning.

"Senseless and barbaric"

While Tánaiste Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: "This is a stark reminder that there are still those on this island who want to set aside the democratically expressed will of all the people on this island, and engage in a senseless and barbaric campaign of terrorist violence.

"I am aware from regular briefings that An Garda Síochána work seamlessly with their colleagues in the Police Service of Northern Ireland to counteract this threat from terrorists and I have no doubt that tonight's attack will reinforce their strong resolve in this regard.

"All right thinking people will join me in supporting them and wishing the victim of tonight's attack a full recovery, and assuring him of the support of the community he serves."

And Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said there is "no excuse for such criminality":

Speaking last night, the DUP's William Humphrey - who is an MP for the area - said it is lucky people were not killed.

"Well it's very worrying - it's very important that all right thinking people condemn what has happened tonight, because these people set out (in a) clearly premeditated way to murder people.

"It's very important that we don't have a vacuum filed but those who are intent on murder and mayhem in Northern Ireland".

Coming just four days after the collapse of the devolved government, this gun attack can only increase tension in the run-up to a snap election.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he was "appalled by news of the shooting" and described the attack on the officer as "absolutely sickening".

"I have spoken to the Chief Constable…been briefed on the active investigation…and passed on my personal thoughts for the injured officer."

Mark Lindsay, chairman of The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents rank and file officers, said: "This attempted murder underlines the fragility of our peace.

"It's one reason why the threat level here remains classed 'severe' which mean a terrorist attack is highly likely.

"Officers already exercise great vigilance and I would appeal to them to remain on high alert."

Additional reporting: IRN