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Security Situation

Volume 660: debated on Wednesday 22 May 2019

The threat from dissident republican terrorism continues to be severe in Northern Ireland after the appalling killing of Lyra McKee. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure. Vigilance against this continuing threat is essential, and we remain determined to ensure that terrorism never succeeds.

I congratulate my right hon. Friend on securing the £105 million of UK Government funding for the new Derry/Londonderry city deal and the inclusive future fund. Does she agree that it is vital that we provide young people with the jobs and skills they need to move on in the future in a world that is rejecting violence and that all these things will help?

My hon. Friend makes a very important point. I am sure that she will have heard the words of Father Martin Magill at the funeral of Lyra McKee; he said that young people need jobs, not guns. It is exactly right that we should focus our efforts on providing jobs as well as tackling terrorism, so that we can give those young people the alternative to violence so that they can have a future that is fit for them.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Police Service of Northern Ireland is doing an outstanding job and showing tremendous courage and professionalism in dealing with violence and dissident activity? What can the Government do to support the PSNI to ensure that it faces down the dissidents and people who are spreading hatred and violence?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. This Government’s first priority is to keep people safe and secure across the whole United Kingdom. We saw incredible bravery from the Police Service of Northern Ireland on the night of Lyra McKee’s killing. Although the police faced an onslaught of petrol bombs and shooting towards them, they got out of their vehicles to try to save Lyra, and we all owe them a debt of gratitude. We need to see people across Northern Ireland working with the PSNI to stamp out terrorism, and the Government stand steadfast in our commitment to assisting that work.

It is vital that we give the right message to young people. However, we have recently seen, yet again, shots being fired over coffins at funerals and before funerals by IRA and INLA terrorists, using weapons that were supposed to have been decommissioned. Is it not incumbent on all political parties in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin, to make it clear that such paramilitary displays with weapons are harmful to our society, send out the wrong message to young people and should stop immediately?

I agree with the right hon. Gentleman that these sorts of outward displays of violence are not acceptable. What I saw after Lyra’s killing was the community coming together and rejecting those outward displays, leading to the cancellation of the proposed march through Londonderry on Easter Monday.

I am sure that the Secretary of State will have had a briefing earlier today—or, indeed, perhaps yesterday—from the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland about the security situation in Northern Ireland. In that context, would the Secretary of State update the people of Northern Ireland about the success of the PSNI in stopping the spate of ATM thefts and apprehending those responsible? Such an update would be very welcome.

The hon. Lady is absolutely right that I saw the Chief Constable yesterday, and I share her concern about the issue. This is an ongoing operational matter, but the actions of the PSNI are to be applauded.

The whole House will share the Secretary of State’s admiration for all the officers of the PSNI—and of the Garda Siochana—who have stopped numerous hideous incidents over recent months and years. What assessment has she made of the PSNI’s morale and of the situation for recruitment to the PSNI and other security forces, should there be a different regime for the veterans of Operation Banner compared with other military operations in other theatres?

I have seen that the PSNI conducts a very difficult job. I am always pleased to have the chance to meet police officers—particularly at Strand Road in Londonderry, where I have made a number of visits following dreadful incidents that we have seen in that city—and to hear the camaraderie and commitment shown by those individuals. I am determined that we will deal with the matters regarding the legacy of Operation Banner appropriately, lawfully and in a way that reflects exactly the commitment that we see today from the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Is not one of the challenges for dealing with the security situation in Northern Ireland to build the confidence of communities right across Northern Ireland, working with the Police Service of Northern Ireland and others? In the face of recent terrible events, we have seen the community doing that, but what more can the Secretary of State do to encourage communities to work with the security forces?

The hon. Gentleman, I know, has great experience in this area and he is right that we do need to see co-operation between communities and the Police Service of Northern Ireland. We did see a real step change following that appalling killing where people were welcoming the PSNI into their homes, but it is an incredibly difficult job. We need to make sure that the inclusive future fund—the £55 million that the Government have committed to Derry/Londonderry—is used in part to support those activities.

The Secretary of State will know that the security situation depends on, among other things, the perception that the police and the judicial process are independent. Families of victims of the troubles of the past are, in many cases, still waiting for answers. Does she agree that those families, and those young people who can be pulled into terrorist acts, would be influenced dramatically if they believed that there was a rule saying that there would be a statute of limitations for state actors when, quite rightly, we seek to prosecute those who perpetrated either murder or manslaughter from whatever background?

The hon. Gentleman will know that this Government are committed to implementing the institutions that were agreed at Stormont House. We have had a consultation on that matter and received more than 17,000 responses—individual personal responses. We will publish the summary of those consultation responses in due course.