Tuesday, 5 November 2019
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
105. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed the possibility of increased violence from dissident activity from the loyalist community on the Border or in Northern Ireland due to the latest withdrawal treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44610/19]
106. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he has discussed the increased possibility of a violent response from loyalist activists due to the recent withdrawal treaty; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44611/19]
I propose to take Questions Nos. 105 and 106 together.
The Government takes very seriously any potential threat to the peace and stability on this island, and we have noted with concern the recent comments by the PSNI Chief Constable, Simon Byrne, that, in the context of the UK exit from the European Union, “there are a small number of people in both the loyalist and nationalist communities that are motivated by their own ideology and that have the potential to bring violence back on to the streets.”
This assessment by the PSNI is of real concern, as were the statements made by Mr Byrne's predecessor, George Hamilton, warning of potential activity by dissident republican groupings against border infrastructure in the context of a hard Brexit. My cabinet colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mr. Charles Flanagan TD, is regularly briefed by the Garda Commissioner on the risks of dissident paramilitary violence and related organised criminality in border regions. In this regard, there are very strong levels of cross border cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the PSNI and this will of course continue in all circumstances.
The Government understands the anxiety and concern being felt by communities in Northern Ireland and border areas about Brexit; however, there is also a responsibility on people , on all sides, to be measured in their comments and responsible in their leadership at community level. There is no excuse whatsoever for violence, or the threat of it. The people of this island, North and South, have consistently shown their support for peaceful, political means to resolve problems and their outright rejection of violence.
While there are of course different views, all sincerely held, on the UK approach to exiting the European Union, the agreement that the European Union has now reached with the UK Government does expressly give a real democratic voice for the people of Northern Ireland into the operation of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement and Protocol.
Any deal, including this one, involves compromise. The Government has consistently tried to listen and respond to the concerns of all those affected by the UK decision to leave the EU, including people from all communities in Northern Ireland and in border regions.
It is vital that these arrangements work for Northern Ireland, and it is important that the voices of all of the political representatives of Northern Ireland, from all communities, are heard, as is provided for under the Withdrawal Agreement.
Ratifying this Withdrawal Agreement remains the best way to ensure an orderly withdrawal of the UK from the European Union. A no deal outcome is in no one’s interests.
In addition to on-going bilateral engagement between myself and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the two Governments discuss Security cooperation through the framework of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference, with the participation of the Minister for Justice and Equality. Our discussions at the Conference reflect the significant and effective cross-border cooperation in monitoring and combatting the ongoing risk of violent actions and organised crime by dissident paramilitary groups.