Topical Issue

Deputy Neale Richmond

Wednesday 7 October 2020

To ask the Minister for Justice to address rising concerns over dissident paramilitary activity; and if she will make a statement on the matter

 

Speech by Minister of State James Browne

 

On behalf of my colleague, Minister McEntee, I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter.

I can assure the House that tackling the threat posed by dissident paramilitary groups who seek to undermine peace on our island continues to be a priority of the Minister for Justice and this Government.

There are, of course, ongoing reviews of the threat assessment arising from the activities of these groups. The Minister for Justice is kept informed of the threat assessment in this regard by the Garda Commissioner.

The security assessment in relation to the terrorist threat level in Northern Ireland is classed as ‘severe’.

The dissident paramilitary groups continue to focus their efforts primarily on targeting members of the security forces in Northern Ireland.

I note that earlier this week the UK’s Intelligence and Security Committee published a report on terrorism in Northern Ireland, which underlined the ongoing challenge from dissident republicans.

While the threat of attack from these groups here is generally considered to be low they still present a real and persistent threat, carrying out fundraising and planning and preparatory activities to support attacks in Northern Ireland.

I can assure the Deputy that the authorities here are taking, and will continue to take, all necessary and appropriate measures to counteract the threat from dissident republicans.

In the context of Brexit, a primary concern for the Minister for Justice is security matters. The Minister for Justice is committed to working so as to ensure that there is no diminution in the security relationship that exists with regard to the subversive threat.

An Garda Síochána and PSNI remain committed to working closely together to ensure that the two services will continue to protect the safety of all on this island.

This operational relationship is absolutely central to bearing down on and disrupting the activities of these groups and, therefore, to maintaining security on the island.

Examples of that close cooperation are seen on a continuing basis with coordinated action taken in both jurisdictions in response to specific threats.

Another aspect of tackling dissident paramilitaries is to disrupt the criminal activity and associations that are a main source of funding for the dissident groups.

The Joint Agency Task Force is a positive example of the extensive North-South co-operation that is undertaken between the police and other law enforcement agencies aimed at tackling crime and enhancing the safety of all communities on this island.

This Task Force is led by senior officers from An Garda Síochána, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Revenue Commissioners and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. A number of other relevant bodies, including the National Crime Agency and the Criminal Assets Bureau are also involved in operational activity. The objective of the Task Force is to build on existing law enforcement frameworks and to increase the collective effectiveness of operational law enforcement actions.