Topical Issues Debate, 18 December 2012: To ask the Minister for Justice to discuss the foiled attempt by the Continuity IRA to murder a British soldier in Limerick as covered by international news agencies today

Check Against Delivery 

Deputy Niall Collins

Reply by Minister for Justice, Equality & Defence - Mr. Alan Shatter TD

The House will, of course, understand the sensitivity that is in the very nature of operations which are carried out by the Garda Síochána in the course of countering the activities of paramilitary gangs and that, as a consequence and particularly when such Garda actions are ongoing, we must exercise the utmost caution in respect of what we would say in regard to them. 

The House will appreciate that the Gardaí, in counteracting the threat posed by paramilitary groups, succeed time and again in preventing them from carrying out planned acts. Of their nature, the detail of a lot of these successes cannot appropriately be put in the public domain. 

However, what I can say is that the Garda Commissioner has advised me that there is an ongoing Garda operation in Limerick aimed at the activities of a certain group and that it would not be helpful for me to make any public comment on it and, in particular, on a specific case.

I thank the Deputy for his full support for the efforts of the Garda Síochána in counteracting the threat which these groups pose and he will appreciate that it would not be helpful to those efforts to go into the detail of Garda operational matters across the floor of this House. 

The Gardaí remain very active in their efforts to counteract these paramilitary gangs; they continue to monitor them closely and to bear down on all of their criminal activities. A number of recent arrests, charges and convictions in relation to subversive activity are testament to the work of the Gardaí in combating the activities of these terrorist gangs, and the Force is to be congratulated for its continued efforts in this regard. 

I have made the point in this House previously and it bears repeating, that to refer to these gangs as ‘dissident republicans’ affords them an historical respectability they do not and cannot merit. The fact is that these groups are no more than groups of criminals who masquerade as republicans in order seek to legitimise their inherent criminality. These are simply criminal terrorists and I don’t believe the words "dissident" or "republican" should be associated with them. 

These gangs are inextricably involved in organised crime – drug smuggling, fuel laundering, extortion, armed robbery – and there is nothing ‘republican’ whatsoever about organised crime. 

I would say also that we all should exercise a degree of caution in discussing these gangs of criminals. They crave publicity and they court notoriety in order to present the appearance of being more important and worthy than, in fact, they are. Although we cannot ignore that these criminal terrorists present a real and manifest threat, we should always remember that they are in a tiny minority on this island. They represent nobody but themselves and their own selfish ends; they offer nothing but a return to the dark days of the past. 

Countering the threat from terrorists has always been a priority for the Garda Síochána and nothing has changed in that regard. Despite the positive developments there have been in recent years in the North, the Gardaí have never let up in their efforts to counteract these groups and they will continue to target them. 

The threat faced on this island from these criminal terrorists is a shared threat and I can assure the House that the Gardaí continue to co-operate seamlessly with the PSNI in actively pursuing them. That co-operation has been instrumental in preventing attacks, combating criminality and saving lives, and I can assure the Deputy, and the House, that the Government is committed to maintaining that high level of co-operation between the Gardaí and the PSNI. 

ENDS