Northern Ireland police confident militants have officers’ data

BELFAST (Reuters) -Northern Irish police are confident that militant groups are in possession of details of officers it accidentally shared publicly last week, the region’s police chief said on Monday.

The surnames, initials, work location and department of all officers were made public online for over two hours after they were included in error in response to a freedom of information request.

The accidental data leak is hugely sensitive in Northern Ireland, where officers are still sporadically targeted by dissident groups in bomb and gun attacks, despite a 1998 peace deal largely ending three decades of sectarian violence.

“We are now confident that the workforce dataset is in the hands of dissident republicans,” Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) Chief Constable Simon Byrne told a news conference.

“It’s therefore our planning assumption that they will use this list to generate fear and uncertainty as well as intimidating or targeting officers and staff.”

A partial copy of the document, with the officers’ names removed, was posted on a wall alongside a photo of Sinn Fein lawmaker Gerry Kelly opposite his Belfast office on Monday, the Irish nationalist party said.

In response the PSNI said additional security measures have been implemented for officers.

Byrne said no officers or staff members have left the organisation as a result of the leak and that there has not been an increase in staff taking sick leave.

He added that he was confident the UK government stood ready to provide additional funding for protecting its workforce or staff if needed.

(Reporting by Amanda Ferguson, writing by Padraic Halpin, editing by Alistair Smout)