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Villiers: Dissidents will retain capacity to kill for foreseeable future

By Michael McHugh

Published 16/07/2015

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 retain lethal capacity and resilience, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has 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, she added.

Ms Villiers is in discussions with Stormont's Justice Department about funding the PSNI to combat the danger, but claimed that 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 said that 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 yesterday 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 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 had 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 £200m for this year was provided by the last Government in 2011.

A further £31m in security funding was allocated in 2015-16.

Mrs Villiers also met with UK victims of IRA violence yesterday, promising to refer the decision to exclude them from pension proposals back to the Department of Justice.

Docklands bombing victim Jonathan Ganesh said: "I felt pleased that the Secretary of State met with us today concerning this matter.

"The mainland UK victims also need access to this pension due to their severe disabilities.

"It was sadly wrong of the Northern Ireland Assembly to disregard those suffering and left severely disabled by terrorism originating from Northern Ireland. All victims of the Northern Ireland conflict are equal regardless of race, religion or location."

Neil Tattersall, who was injured by the IRA Manchester attack in March 1992, said: "We have been treated like rubbish by those in power in Northern Ireland. How could this immoral legislation be implemented."

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