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Dissident Political Organisations

Volume 491: debated on Wednesday 22 April 2009

5. What recent estimate he has made of the size of membership of dissident political organisations in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (269408)

We believe that there are three so-called dissident political organisations, but it is difficult to estimate the number of members of them, except to say that they have extremely limited appeal because they reject both the peace process and the political process.

The Secretary of State will recall that, last month, the Minister of State told the House about the activities of dissident paramilitaries who were, as he put it, using extreme violence to extort money from drug dealers while at the same time pretending to protect the communities in which they were operating. He quite rightly said that it was necessary to bring such individuals to justice. Can the Secretary of State say what success the PSNI has had so far in that regard?

The hon. Gentleman makes a very important point. The PSNI continues to be extremely successful in bearing down on all kinds of criminal activity, including that from so-called dissident paramilitary groups. It is essential for the House to remember that the funding of those so-called dissident groups—they are also, of course, criminal—comes from criminal activity. We will pursue them rigorously.

The Secretary of State has admitted that the security forces do not even know the primary people involved in dissident organisations, let alone what attacks they are planning. Does he accept that that is partly due to the fact that the special branch of the RUC, now the PSNI, was disbanded, so those intelligence sources have been lost and we are now in the dark about what dissidents are likely to do and what attacks they are likely to plan?

I really do disagree with the hon. Gentleman. First, I pay tribute not only to the RUC, but to the PSNI and the security services throughout the period. We should recognise the number of attacks that they have stopped and the number of people who have not died because of their work, which was important not only 10 or 20 years ago, but continues to be important today.

Later today, my right hon. Friend the Chancellor will have things to say about ensuring that the police have the resources that my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister promised they would have. We are determined to bear down on those people and the hon. Gentleman will see actions and words together this afternoon.