The terrorist threat in Northern Ireland continues to be severe. It is being suppressed through effective and dedicated work by the PSNI and MI5, but the need for a high state of vigilance remains.
So that paramilitary organisations no longer have a place in Northern Ireland, it is important to deter people from joining them in the first place. What measures are being taken to prevent vulnerable young people from joining paramilitary organisations?
There are already a number of excellent programmes run by charities such as Co-operation Ireland to deter young people in Northern Ireland from a life of crime or association with paramilitary organisations. The fresh start agreement makes a stronger commitment to increase these programmes, so that young people are shown an alternative path and not drawn into association with terrorism, paramilitary organisations or crime.
Those groups have lethal intent and lethal capability. They have been responsible for 150 national security attacks over the past five years. The threat from those groups is being suppressed by highly effective activity in the PSNI, aided in many instances by the Garda Síochána in cross-border activities.
It is entirely unacceptable that any paramilitary organisations continue to exist in Northern Ireland. I believe that the fresh start agreement will mark a turning point and put us on the path to a day when those organisations are consigned once and for all to Northern Ireland’s past and have nothing to do with its present or its future.