Police dispute Irish president’s security claims during Belfast trip

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Police in Northern Ireland have disputed the Irish President’s claim that he had to travel to Belfast by private jet because they could not provide security for him to journey by road.

Michael D Higgins said his staff were advised “that for security reasons I couldn’t be picked up at the border” during last May’s trip.

He is running for a second term as president and the election will be held on Friday.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) told the BBC: “It is the long-established policy of the PSNI not to comment on the security arrangements made for individuals.”

Assistant chief constable Alan Todd added: “The PSNI 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.”

Mr Higgins made his claim about his travel arrangements during a televised presidential debate on Wednesday evening.

In May, he spoke at Queen’s University Belfast on the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement around the concepts of remembering, forgiving, forgetting, and imagining.

Sinn Fein presidential candidate Liadh Ni Riada said President Higgins’ claim about his transportation had been disputed by the PSNI.

She added: “They reject this security claim [and] say it would be ‘inconceivable’ that the President of Ireland would not have been afforded security if it had been requested.

“It is clear now that Michael D Higgins’ claim has caused considerable anger within the PSNI.

“Michael D Higgins must make a public statement on this matter immediately. This is very serious. He must come clean.”

Another candidate, the Londonderry-born businessman Peter Casey, has suspended his campaign for this weekend as he reflects on whether to continue in the race.

He caused controversy when he challenged the right of Irish Travellers to be classed as members of an ethnic minority.

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