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Building a Shared Future

Volume 571: debated on Wednesday 27 November 2013

2. What recent discussions she has had with the Northern Ireland Executive on building a shared future in Northern Ireland. (901224)

I have discussed the importance of tackling sectarian divisions and building a shared society with the Northern Ireland Executive on many occasions, most recently with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on 11 November. They both agree on the importance of delivering the commitments set out in their strategy document “Together: Building a United Community”.

The disturbances over the summer confirmed that there is much work to be done on building a just and fair society in Ulster. What will my right hon. Friend do to ensure that the community relations strategy announced by the Northern Ireland Executive is brought to fruition?

We very much welcome the publication of the strategy. It was something that the UK Government had encouraged, and we worked with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister on it. When it is delivered, it will make a real difference to starting to heal the sectarian divisions that have been so divisive and corrosive and that can feed the scenes of disgraceful violence in Northern Ireland. The important challenge now is to ensure that the commitments in that strategy are delivered, and the Government will continue to encourage the Northern Ireland Executive to do that.

If we are to achieve a shared future for Northern Ireland, it is important that the threat of terrorism should be addressed. Is the Secretary of State aware that the dissident republicans’ failed mortar attack at Cullyhanna in south Armagh showed a level of sophistication and technological detail that had never been seen before in Northern Ireland but that has been recorded in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Perhaps that shows international terrorism links. Will she tell us what steps she is taking to eradicate the dissident republican threat in Northern Ireland?

I have been briefed on that attack. It and all the others we have seen in recent weeks are a matter of grave concern. The sad fact is that the threat of terrorism from dissident republicans continues to be severe; it has been set at that level since 2009. That is why the Government remain absolutely vigilant and completely supportive of the PSNI and the extra visibility mechanisms that it is deploying in Belfast. We have deployed an extra £200 million in funding to assist the PSNI and its partners in tackling this threat, and we will continue to give them every support.

On the economic shared future, will the Secretary of State tell me what work is being done on the legacy of this year’s Derry-Londonderry UK city of culture to ensure that the benefits continue to come to the city and to the whole of Northern Ireland?

I am confident that there will be a very positive legacy. Interestingly, I am sure that the legacy will be felt on both sides of the border, because this is having a significant impact on areas in the south, too. We are determined that there will be a legacy from successful events such as the city of culture and the G8 meeting. That is one reason why the Prime Minister attended an investment conference a couple of months ago to promote Northern Ireland as a great place to do business, following on from the success of the G8 meeting.

Will the Secretary of State be so kind as to agree to come to my constituency to meet various loyalist communities to discuss their positive contribution to a shared future that we all want to enjoy?

I am happy to do that, and I believe that our respective offices are in discussions about a date. It is very important to distinguish between the small minority of extremists within the loyalist community, who might have been responsible for the disgraceful scenes of rioting, and the vast majority, who are committed to peace and want to help to build a shared future for Northern Ireland. The hon. Lady makes the point well.