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Dissident republicans 'retain lethal capacity' says Villiers

Published 15/07/2015

Dissident republicans will be a threat to the Northern Ireland peace process for the foreseeable future, says Theresa Villiers
Dissident republicans will be a threat to the Northern Ireland peace process for the foreseeable future, says Theresa Villiers

Dissident republicans in Northern Ireland retain lethal capacity and resilience, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers warned.

The threat from gunmen opposed to the peace process is going to remain for the foreseeable future despite intensive efforts by police and the security forces, the senior Cabinet member added.

She is in discussions with Stormont's justice department about funding the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to combat the danger but claimed uncertainty from a budget crisis in Belfast could cause the force difficulties.

She said: "Our assessment is it is going to be a threat that is going to be present in Northern Ireland for more or less the foreseeable future."

Security forces are on high alert for attacks by republican paramilitaries. The head of MI5 Andrew Parker has claimed the majority of dissident republican attacks in Northern Ireland last year were unsuccessful.

However, in recent years they have killed policemen, soldiers and a prison warder.

Ms Villiers told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of Westminster MPs: "They retain lethal capacity and resilience.

"Many of their leadership have been arrested for suspected offences over the recent months but there is still a significant amount of targeting and planning and it remains the case that were it not for the highly effective action taken by the PSNI and its security partners, including An Garda Siochana, I am afraid we would see many more tragedies on the streets of Northern Ireland."

She said police and security forces stopped almost all attacks but a high state of vigilance was still needed.

Special funding was agreed to tackle dissidents in 2011. A four-year package worth almost £200 million to this year was provided by the last Government in 2011. A further £31 million in security funding was allocated in 2015-16.

The powersharing administration in Belfast has been paralysed by a dispute over welfare reform which threatens the budget for public services.

Ms Villiers added it was essential the pre-Christmas Stormont House Agreement between the British and Irish governments and five main Northern Ireland parties was i mplemented to avoid sudden reductions to the PSNI's budget.

"The PSNI are confident that they are able to tackle the threat, they are doing it very effectively but significant and dramatic further in-year cuts to their budget would pose difficulties."

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