Skip to main content


Volume 407: debated on Wednesday 25 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.


If he will make a statement on the criminal activities of Northern Ireland paramilitary organisations outside Northern Ireland. [120569]

The Organised Crime Task Force's most recent assessment is that two thirds of the organised crime groups in Northern Ireland have links to paramilitary organisations. Clearly, a number of those groups undertake their criminal activities both across and outside Northern Ireland.

Good operational links already exist between law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally, as my hon. Friend has good reason to know in his constituency—[Interruption.] I will continue to work with. Organised Crime Task Force members with UK-wide responsibilities to assist in the fight against national and international organised crime—[Interruption.]

Order. There is far too much noise in the House, and it is unfair to those who are in the Chamber for Northern Ireland questions.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given her very heavy work load, I am sure that she is unable to read the Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post or The Courier and Advertiser, but she will be aware from last week's reports in the Belfast News Letter and The Irish Times of the 26-year sentences handed down to five members of a Protestant paramilitary organisation, the Red Hand Commando, for their armed robbery at a Dundee public house last year. On speaking to the chief constable of Tayside, I was told that there was little consultation between the authorities in Northern Ireland and the police force in Tayside and Dundee. Given the statements that she has made today, I hope that she will do all that she can to ensure that greater efforts are made to improve liaison between the two organisations on the mainland and in Northern Ireland.

I am surprised to hear my hon. Friend's comments and I shall look into the case that he raises. I had understood that the Police Service of Northern Ireland indeed provided written statements and that an officer testified in the court case. I had concluded on that basis that there were good relations. I know that such relations exist on an operational basis between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and other police forces throughout England and Wales and, indeed, Scotland. Where such good links need to be developed, they are developed and built upon, and they are to be commended.

The Minister will be aware that a very good Bill, the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, has just completed its Standing Committee stage. What discussion has she had with the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland about the implications of that Bill for tackling paramilitary organisations in the Republic of Ireland?

As the hon. Lady knows, I regularly meet the Chief Constable to discuss a range of issues. No concerns as such have been raised directly with me about the implications for Northern Ireland of the Bill to which she referred. I am aware of the very good relationships that exist between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the law enforcement agencies in the Republic of Ireland, and I will do all in my power to foster those good relations so that we can continue to see successful joint operations of the sort that recently led to interception of the vehicle bombs that were thankfully intercepted at the border at the weekend and in Londonderry.

Is the Minister aware of the increasing concern, particularly in border areas in Northern Ireland, about paramilitary groups in the Irish Republic, including the various factions of the IRA, who are making preparations for further bombs like the one to which she alluded? Thankfully, that was intercepted in Londonderry, but there are many more. Is she aware of the concern of people in Northern Ireland regarding those preparations?

I am indeed aware of such concern in Northern Ireland. The dissident republicans continue to pose a serious threat. However, as I have said, due to the very good co-operation that exists between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana in the Republic of Ireland, there has been a large degree of success in dealing with dissidents in both the north and the south of Ireland. That success will continue, and I will continue to do all that is in my power to foster good co-operation between those law enforcement agencies.