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02 Feb 2021 | 09:22

NIreland suspends Brexit checks over threats to port staff

(Sharecast News) - Brexit checks on animal and food products coming into Belfast and Larne ports have been suspended over fears for the safety of staff working there, according to Northern Ireland's agriculture ministry. The decision came after Mid and East Antrim borough council agreed on Monday night to remove 12 of its staff at Larne port with immediate effect, following an "upsurge in sinister and menacing behaviour in recent weeks".

The checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea have caused tension in loyalist communities in the past two weeks, the Guardian reported.

Last week, graffiti appeared on a wall near the port warning that all border officials were targets. There was other graffiti threatening the former taoiseach of Ireland Leo Varadkar if he "set foot in Ulster".

A spokesman for Stormont's Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (Daera) said: "On the basis of information received today and pending further discussions with the PSNI [Police Service of Northern Ireland], Daera has decided in the interests of the wellbeing of staff to temporarily suspend physical inspections of products of animal origin at Larne and Belfast."

"The situation will be kept under review and in the meantime full documentary checks will continue to be carried out as usual."

PSNI assistant chief constable Mark McEwan said force officials would meet partner agencies to discuss the situation. "The safety of staff working at points of entry is of the utmost importance to us," he said. "Where we have any credible information we will share that with our partners and take appropriate action.

"We have increased patrols at Larne port and other points of entry in order to reassure staff and the local community."

The new protocol came into force at the start of the year to avoid a border on the island of Ireland.

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