Northern Ireland news

Arson attack at Co Antrim home of police officer branded 'reckless'

A "reckless" arson attack at the home of a serving police officer in Co Antrim, which seen three cars set alight, has been condemned.Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

Police are "keeping an open mind" in terms of the motive behind a "reckless" arson attack at the home of a serving police officer in Co Antrim.

Three cars were set alight at the property in Larne at around 1.45am yesterday.

The fire also caused scorch damage to the house where the officer, his wife and daughter had been asleep.

The trio were not injured in what has been described as a "terrifying ordeal" for the family.

Police said they were "keeping an open mind" in terms of the motive, but that a primary line of inquiry was that criminal elements may have been responsible.

Last night, BBC NI reported that a line of inquiry was the possible involvement of the South-East Antrim UDA.

The breakaway loyalist organisation was behind recent rioting in Newtownabbey and has been the target of a police operation against organised crime in recent months.

Sinn Féin assembly member Philip McGuigan linked the attack with loyalist anger over post-Brexit arrangements, additional checks at ports which they regard as a border in the Irish Sea.

"In recent months there has been increasingly violent rhetoric targeting the PSNI and police officers with sinister posters and graffiti appearing in loyalist areas across the north," he said.

"These loyalist paramilitary gangs need to pack up and go away once and for all."

Detective Chief Inspector Dunny McCubbin described the attack as "completely reckless" and "could have had serious consequences".

"Thankfully, no injuries have been reported in what was a terrifying ordeal for the officer and his family," he said.

"There are no words to describe those who would set fire to vehicles in the dark of night outside a family home when the occupants were asleep inside.

"Their actions stand in stark contrast to the officer who everyday serves our community with dignity, respect and courtesy.

"At the present time we are keeping an open mind as to the motivation behind this attack, however a primary line of enquiry is that criminal elements may be responsible.

"Detectives have now initiated a full investigation, which I can assure the community will be thorough and robust.

Mark Lindsay, chair of The Police Federation for Northern Ireland, described the arson attack as a "vile act of attempted intimidation".

"This arson attack was an act of terror, an act of madness," he said.

"Faceless bullies need to be apprehended, and I would echo the appeal made by the PSNI to the people of Larne to help track down those responsible for the attack".

Justice Minister Naomi Long described what had happened as "appalling and cowardly".

"This violence achieves absolutely nothing and needs to stop," she said.

Doug Beattie, UUP justice spokesman, described the attack as "absolutely reprehensible".

"To be awoken to find this destruction in the middle of the night must have been terrifying for the whole family and thoughts are with them all," he said.

DUP assembly member Mervyn Storey said there was "no justification or excuse for such an attack" while SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly described those responsible as "criminal thugs who have nothing to offer our communities and must be brought to justice.

The attack comes amid growing tensions within loyalism.

It was reported yesterday that further loyalist protests against the Northern Ireland Protocol are planned, with one due to take place in Antrim next month.

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