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South Armagh

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 20 February 2008

The security situation in south Armagh is being transformed. Police today operate without military support and enjoy unprecedented co-operation from the local community, especially with Sinn Fein joining both the Policing Board and district policing partnerships.

Does the Secretary of State agree that in spite of those welcome developments and the increasing co-operation between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana there are still real worries in south Armagh? Is he not disturbed, as I am, that no one has yet been arrested for the murder of Paul Quinn?

The hon. Gentleman is right about the concern that exists in south Armagh, throughout Northern Ireland and throughout the whole United Kingdom, and indeed in the Republic of Ireland, about the murder of Paul Quinn. We all want to see those responsible for that murder brought to justice. However, let me repeat to him what the district commander of south Armagh told my hon. Friend the Minister of State this morning during a conversation about the issue. The situation in south Armagh is improving. The communities are showing a greater engagement with the police in helping with all inquiries. Let me give just one example: the fact that today we see the police being invited into schools in Crossmaglen is a huge step forward. Notwithstanding the savage, brutal murder of Paul Quinn, we must not lose sight of the progress that is being made.

The Independent Monitoring Commission and the Chief Constable have acknowledged that the dissident republican groups in south Armagh and throughout Northern Ireland pose a major threat. We send troops across the world with a determined goal of crushing terrorism. When will the Government do that in Northern Ireland? Are we consigned to another 30 years of this activity because of a dissident threat from republicanism?

This Government are absolutely determined to bear down on terrorism wherever it happens. We continue to bear down on all paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, and we will work closely with the police forces in Northern Ireland and in the Republic to ensure that those who pose a threat—it is a small but none the less significant threat—to the lives of ordinary people will be dealt with. We will bring them to justice as soon as we can.