Belfast Telegraph

PSNI given £210m to tackle Northern Ireland terrorism

Dissident threat 'severe' but progress on tackling paramilitaries

By Jonathan Bell

Over £210m in funding has been allocated to police to tackle terrorism in Northern Ireland in the past two years, with £160m earmarked this year specifically to crack down on dissident republicans.

In a statement to MPs on the security situation, Secretary of State James Brokenshire said the threat level from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland remained at 'severe', the highest level meaning an attack was "highly likely". In Britain it remains 'substantial' meaning an attack was a "strong possibility".

He said, however, there had been progress on dealing with paramilitaries and diverting people away from their clutches and into community work. 

The secretary of State detailed how there had been four attacks in the past year blamed on dissident republicans. This compares to 16 in 2015 and 40 in 2010.

"Although there has been a reduction," Mr Brokenshire said, "terrorist attack planning continues with lethal intent and capability. Vigilance in the face of this continuing threat remains essential."

Welcoming the sentencing of former Royal Marine Ciaran Maxwell who was convicted over republican terrorist offences, Mr Brokenshire said the 23-year term demonstrated the harm he posed and how his capture had "undoubtedly saved lives".

The MP said progress had been made in terms of tackling both republican and loyalist paramilitaries. He outlined how there had been two paramilitary-related deaths, 19 people shot in paramilitary shootings and 57 assault victims this year up to the end of September.

The perpetrators are criminals who use the cloak of paramilitary activity to line their own pockets and impoverish communities.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of Mi5 taking responsibility from the PSNI on matters of national security intelligence. James Brokenshire said in the past two years £210m has been allocated to fund the fight against terrorism in Northern Ireland.

This year a £160m fund was made available to directly target dissident republicans and there was also a 30% increase in cross-government spending on counter-terrorism. No detail was provided on what that figure was and the Northern Ireland Office said it did not have those figures to give. Through the Fresh Start agreement in 2015 another £50m was made available between 2016 and 2021 to tackle paramilitarism.

"This Government is strongly supporting ongoing efforts to tackle the scourge of paramilitarism and organised crime in Northern Ireland," Mr Brokenshire continued.

As of the end of September almost 100 arrests and 200 searches had been made in relation to paramilitary activity with 66 people charged or reported to the Public Prosecution Service. Around £450,000 worth of criminal assets have been including £157,000 in cash, along with drugs worth around £230,000, guns, ammunition and pipe bombs and other items.

Mr Brokenshire added: "Significant progress has been made, but the severe threat from violent dissident republican terrorist groups remains and we must be vigilant to this.

"There are still those who wish to murder public servants and commit acts of terror. Many people still live in fear of paramilitaries. Through the excellent work of PSNI, MI5 and security partners including An Garda Siochana, we will continue to bring those who seek to cause harm in our society to justice."

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