One security-related death and five bombings recorded in N Ireland in 2022

Northern Ireland saw one security-related death and five bombing incidents in 2022, police figures have revealed.

The number of deaths in the region considered by police to be security related dropped from two in 2021.

Sean Fox, 42, was shot dead at a west Belfast social club in front of more than 100 people in October last year.

Police believe the murder was carried out by the same gunmen who killed Mark Hall in west Belfast in December 2021.

They did not attribute the murders to a particular organisation but said the two deaths bore “the hallmarks of dissident republican killings”.

The latest figures compiled by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) from police records also show there were five bombing incidents, the same number as in 2021, and 29 shooting incidents, which is up from 27 in 2021.

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Most of the bombings took place in the Derry and Strabane area (three), and included an attack in November claimed by the republican paramilitary group known as Arm na Poblachta (ANP) where a delivery driver was forced to take a bomb to a police station.

The incident came just days after police said they believed another dissident republican group, the New IRA, could be responsible for an incident in which two officers escaped injury when their car was targeted in a bomb attack in Strabane, Co Tyrone.

Belfast and Mid Ulster each experienced one bombing incident during the past 12 months.

Of the shootings, most (12) took place in the Derry and Strabane council area, while seven were recorded in Belfast and three each in Causeway Coast and Glens and Ards and North Down.

A drop was recorded in the number of paramilitary-style assaults and shootings.

There were 25 casualties of paramilitary-style assaults in 2022, compared to 37 in 2021. These attacks often involve victims being beaten with iron bars or baseball bats by loyalist or republican paramilitary groups as a so-called punishment attack.

There were also eight victims of paramilitary-style shootings. In these attacks, victims are usually shot in the knees, elbows, feet, ankles or thighs by paramilitaries who claim they are punishment for anti-social activities.

The 2022 figure for paramilitary shootings was a drop from 14 in 2021.

Police also recorded 110-security related arrests under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000, compared to 130 in 2021, and 13 people were subsequently charged, compared to 23 in 2021.

Meanwhile there were fewer firearms found in 2022 (24) compared to 39 in 2021, which was attributed to the finding of a large quantity of firearms in May 2021.

Some 0.65kg of explosives were discovered in 2022 compared to none in 2021, and 1,898 rounds of ammunition were found in 2022 compared to 1,002 rounds in 2021.

PSNI officer bomb target
PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan (Rebecca Black/PA)

Assistant Chief Constable Mark McEwan paid tribute to the support of the public.

“The support of the community alongside proactive efforts to tackle terrorist activity has led to 110 security-related arrests under the Terrorism Act in 2022 with 13 people subsequently charged,” he said.

“It’s a signal of some success in the long-term efforts towards achieving the kind of society that we all want and deserve. That’s efforts made by police officers and staff, our partners and, in particular, the community.

“It is vital that people continue to tell us about crime and anti-social behaviour when they see or experience it.

“We can only work to address issues when we know about them.  I would encourage anyone who has been a victim of crime or has information about crime to report it to us.

“Our priority will remain the same – to deliver a visible, accessible and responsive community-focused policing service to keep people safe.”