People owe the police and security services a debt of gratitude for foiling an alleged bomb plot against British flights to the US, Ian Paisley said today.
After being briefed by British Home Secretary John Reid, the Democratic Unionist leader called on people to hold their nerve in the face of a terrorist threat.
As airports across the UK were thrown into chaos in the wake of the arrest of 21 people for an alleged plot to blow up the planes in mid-flight, Mr Paisley said the police and security services deserved praise.
“We owe them all a great debt of gratitude for their efforts,” the North Antrim MP said.
“This major terrorist plot to blow up planes flying from our airports represents a serious challenge to peace and democracy in this land.
“This is a time for steady nerves and quiet resolution.
“Terrorism, from whatever quarter it emanates, must be defeated. All people who love law and order and who enjoy the benefits that flow from democracy, must unite together and set aside their other differences and work to defeat this scourge upon the human race.”
Anti-terror police arrested 21 people in London, the Thames Valley and Birmingham last night and were searching several addresses today.
Stringent new security measures were imposed at all UK airports early this morning in the wake of the joint police and security service operation, causing widespread chaos.
A ban on hand luggage along with other checks and precautions led to massive queues at airports where scores of flights were cancelled.
Earlier Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson told reporters at New Scotland Yard that the plot would have caused untold death and destruction.
“This was intended to be mass murder on an unimaginable scale,” he said.
As stringent security measures were put in place in the North’s three airports and flights from Belfast International and George Best City Airport to London, Liverpool and Amsterdam were cancelled, Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy urged passengers to be understanding and patient.
“We must remember that this is a serious issue of national security and the airport authorities would not go to such drastic measures if they did not think it was necessary and had grounds for serious concern,” the Newry and Armagh Assembly member said.
“We need to take an understanding and responsible attitude to the situation. In Northern Ireland, we know only too well the problems posed by terrorists. In the current climate it’s only right that we take every possible precaution to save lives“.
The Alliance Party’s justice and security spokesperson, Stephen Farry, said the police operations were a sobering reminder of the threat that international terrorism posed to society.
The North Down councillor said: “It is important to stress that while this threat seems to be domestic in origin, there is only an extremely small minority of citizens who actively support the use of terror.
“There will obviously be a need for continued high vigilance for some time to come, and I would urge everyone to show patience and co-operation through all the disruption. Personal safety of all passengers must be paramount.”