UK Government ‘prioritising support’ for efforts for a safer Northern Ireland

Rebecca Black, PA

The UK Government is “prioritising support” for efforts to thwart terrorism in Northern Ireland.

It hailed the transformation of the security situation in the region over the last 20 years as a credit to the people of the region and security agencies.

However, it noted the murder of journalist Lyra McKee in 2019, a “killing that shocked the world”, as a reminder of a “small number of dissident republicans who remain intent on killing”.

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Lyra McKee (PSNI)

The response came following a report from a Westminster committee which urged Stormont to consider an overhaul of Northern Ireland’s justice system to tackle terrorism.

The report by the Intelligence and Security Committee last October warned terrorism has not gone away, and dissident republicans remain “capable of serious damage”.

In its response published online on Thursday, the Government said it “continues to prioritise support” for efforts to ensure a safer Northern Ireland.

It said many of the levers to stem paramilitary recruitment sit with the devolved administration, adding that “considerable” work has been undertaken since the Fresh Start Agreement in 2015 to address vulnerabilities that can make people susceptible to involvement with paramilitaries.

Ian Ogle death
A billboard for a government campaign against paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland (Rebecca Black/PA)

“The UK Government has already provided £25m over five years to support the Northern Ireland Executive’s Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime Programme.

“The programme uses methodology and delivery approaches that address Northern Ireland’s unique challenges as well as drawing on national and international best practice.

“This is a cross-Executive programme involving at least seven departments, 22 statutory agencies and over 50 other partners.

“That reflects the nature of the problem and where the levers and expertise sit to address them.”

The committee’s report was also critical of the justice system.

The Government response said it is “wholly supportive of important work that is being done by the devolved administrations to address the specific issue of delay in the justice system, including the introduction of relevant legislation”.

It also welcomed the restoration of devolution and appointment of ministers in January 2020 to “provide the political impetus for the programme”.

Meanwhile, in response to the committee’s warning that post-Brexit infrastructure on the Irish border could be targeted by dissident republicans and used as a “recruiting tool”, the Government said the Northern Ireland Protocol meant that a hard border has been avoided.

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