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Terrorist Links

3. David Burnside (South Antrim): If he will make a statement on the links between (a) Sinn Fein and (b) the Provisional IRA and (i) Batasuna and (ii) ETA in Spain. [120568]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Jane Kennedy): The political and ideological relationship between Sinn Fein and Batasuna are well attested, as evidenced by recent press statements from Sinn Fein.

David Burnside : The Minister will surely be aware, if she listens to her intelligence advisers, that ETA-Batasuna and IRA-Sinn Fein are identical and integrated organisations. In the case of our home-based IRA-Sinn Fein organisation, the Sinn Fein president and chief negotiator sit in the army council. The Minister should also be aware that under the definition of proscription of organisations in the Terrorism Act 2000, Sinn Fein should be on the list of proscribed organisations. Is it not time that the Government had the same courage as the Spanish Government and put Sinn Fein on the proscribed list until it acts as a democratic party?

Jane Kennedy: The hon. Gentleman is right that Sinn Fein is the IRA's political wing and as such the two are inextricably linked. However—it is important for us all to bear this in mind—the Spanish do not regard Batasuna as supporting the peace process. Sinn Fein does support the peace process. Unlike ETA—[Interruption.] Hon. Members may disregard that if they wish, but unlike ETA the IRA is on ceasefire, and it is worth bearing in mind the difference in the behaviour of the two organisations. However, hon. Members will know, and will have heard the Government state many times, that ceasefires on their own are no longer enough to restore trust and confidence and to allow the re-establishment of the institutions. The IRA has to make it absolutely clear that all paramilitary activity, as set out in paragraph 13 of the joint declaration by the British and Irish Governments, will come to an end.

Mr. Nigel Dodds (Belfast, North): The Minister has admitted that Sinn Fein and the IRA, a terrorist group operating in part of the United Kingdom, are inextricably linked. Why, then, do the Government

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persist in trying to insert into all accountable Executive positions in part of the United Kingdom a group linked to and inextricably part of a terrorist organisation? Despite the Secretary of State's determination to close his eyes to reality, if he looks along this Bench in the House of Commons today he will see the reality—that the policy of supporting Sinn Fein in Government in Northern Ireland is supported only by a rump of the Unionist party as led by—

Mr. Speaker: Order. The Minister will answer only the question.

Jane Kennedy: I repeat that, unlike ETA, the Provisional IRA remains on ceasefire. The cost to Spain in terms of ETA's continuance of its terrorist programme has been 46 deaths since 1999. The comparisons with the Provisional IRA deserve scrutiny. The Provisional IRA, in our assessment, remains on ceasefire. However, as I said earlier, and it bears repeating, ceasefires on their own are no longer enough.

Mr. Seamus Mallon (Newry and Armagh): The Minister will be aware that all the structures to deal with terrorism must work properly, whether in Northern Ireland or outside it. Will the Minister confirm that, as of now, necessary investigations into the criminal activities of loyalist paramilitary groupings cannot be properly processed by the police ombudsperson for the very good reason that the Government will not fund those investigations? Will the Minister take the opportunity now to tell the House that the Government will fund at least three investigations into not just serious irregularities, but murders?

Jane Kennedy: I am afraid that I do not agree with my hon. Friend on the point that he has made. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland received the whole of the budgetary requirements that she put forward in the case that she made. We met her request in full. The cases that she takes forward are a matter for her to prioritise within the budgets that she is required to manage.

Mr. Hugo Swire (East Devon): The Minister may maintain that the IRA "remains on ceasefire", to use her words, but the reality is that the current problems in Northern Ireland politics are caused by the IRA's failure to complete and the Government's repeated concessions to it. Is she aware of the recent poll conducted by Millward Brown Ulster, which clearly states:

Is it not crystal clear where the Government's efforts must lie?

Jane Kennedy: I do not disagree with the hon. Gentleman's comments. The complete transition to exclusively peaceful means is the contribution that all paramilitary organisations could make and which the people of Northern Ireland deserve. As I have said previously, statements or words on their own are not enough. The people of Northern Ireland, in order to have the confidence that all parties engaged in the peace

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process are fully wedded to democratic means, need to see actions that follow through on the words that they say.


4. Mr. Iain Luke (Dundee, East): If he will make a statement on the criminal activities of Northern Ireland paramilitary organisations outside Northern Ireland. [120569]

The Minister of State, Northern Ireland Office (Jane Kennedy): The Organised Crime Task Force's most recent assessment is that two thirds of the organised crime groups in Northern Ireland have links to paramilitary organisations. Clearly, a number of those groups undertake their criminal activities both across and outside Northern Ireland.

Good operational links already exist between law enforcement agencies nationally and internationally, as my hon. Friend has good reason to know in his constituency—[Interruption.] I will continue to work with Organised Crime Task Force members with UK-wide responsibilities to assist in the fight against national and international organised crime—[Interruption.]

Mr. Speaker: Order. There is far too much noise in the House, and it is unfair to those who are in the Chamber for Northern Ireland questions.

Mr. Luke: I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. Given her very heavy work load, I am sure that she is unable to read the Dundee Evening Telegraph and Post or The Courier and Advertiser, but she will be aware from last week's reports in the Belfast News Letter and The Irish Times of the 26-year sentences handed down to five members of a Protestant paramilitary organisation, the Red Hand Commando, for their armed robbery at a Dundee public house last year. On speaking to the chief constable of Tayside, I was told that there was little consultation between the authorities in Northern Ireland and the police force in Tayside and Dundee. Given the statements that she has made today, I hope that she will do all that she can to ensure that greater efforts are made to improve liaison between the two organisations on the mainland and in Northern Ireland.

Jane Kennedy: I am surprised to hear my hon. Friend's comments and I shall look into the case that he raises. I had understood that the Police Service of Northern Ireland indeed provided written statements and that an officer testified in the court case. I had concluded on that basis that there were good relations. I know that such relations exist on an operational basis between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and other police forces throughout England and Wales and, indeed, Scotland. Where such good links need to be developed, they are developed and built upon, and they are to be commended.

Lady Hermon (North Down): The Minister will be aware that a very good Bill, the Crime (International Co-operation) Bill, has just completed its Standing Committee stage. What discussion has she had with the

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Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland about the implications of that Bill for tackling paramilitary organisations in the Republic of Ireland?

Jane Kennedy: As the hon. Lady knows, I regularly meet the Chief Constable to discuss a range of issues. No concerns as such have been raised directly with me about the implications for Northern Ireland of the Bill to which she referred. I am aware of the very good relationships that exist between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the law enforcement agencies in the Republic of Ireland, and I will do all in my power to foster those good relations so that we can continue to see successful joint operations of the sort that recently led to interception of the vehicle bombs that were thankfully intercepted at the border at the weekend and in Londonderry.

Mr. Gregory Campbell (East Londonderry): Is the Minister aware of the increasing concern, particularly in border areas in Northern Ireland, about paramilitary groups in the Irish Republic, including the various factions of the IRA, who are making preparations for further bombs like the one to which she alluded? Thankfully, that was intercepted in Londonderry, but there are many more. Is she aware of the concern of people in Northern Ireland regarding those preparations?

Jane Kennedy: I am indeed aware of such concern in Northern Ireland. The dissident republicans continue to pose a serious threat. However, as I have said, due to the very good co-operation that exists between the Police Service of Northern Ireland and the Garda Siochana in the Republic of Ireland, there has been a large degree of success in dealing with dissidents in both the north and the south of Ireland. That success will continue, and I will continue to do all that is in my power to foster good co-operation between those law enforcement agencies.

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