Minister indicates NI will form part of anti-terror review

Armed police seal off an area in north Belfast after a republican attempt to murder police on May 28, 2013.
Armed police seal off an area in north Belfast after a republican attempt to murder police on May 28, 2013.

A Tory minister has hinted that the government intends to make sure Northern Irish paramilitarism is considered when it mulls over new counter-terror measures.

In the House of Commons on Wednesday, Theresa Villiers asked Chloe Smith – under-secretary of state – if the Northern Ireland Office will ensure it plays “a full part in the government’s forthcoming review of counter-terrorism strategy”.

She replied: “The short answer is yes.

“Both I and my right honourable friend the Secretary of State will endeavour to ensure that security is at the forefront of all that we do.”

The Queen’s Speech had said that, following the recent largely Islamist-based terror attacks in England, the “government’s counter-terrorism strategy will be reviewed to ensure that the police and security services have all the powers they need, and that the length of custodial sentences for terrorism-related offences are sufficient to keep the population safe”.

It had also said that a “commission for countering extremism” would be set up to tackle “extremist ideology” – including on the internet.

However it had been unclear whether any of this was supposed to apply to Northern Ireland as well as Great Britain.

The Northern Ireland Office had initially failed to answer when asked, then later said simply that it “is committed to identifying and stamping out extremism across UK society... once plans are completed on the design of the commission, the government will set out next steps.”

A Labour MP David Hanson then posed this to Ms Smith: “The minister will know that many terrorists have been brought back to Northern Ireland to face justice under the European arrest warrant.

“Will she commit today from the Dispatch Box that this Government will keep that arrest warrant post-Brexit?”

Ms Smith responded: “The right honourable gentleman will know that all such matters are for negotiation and are in the hands of my right hon. Friend the Brexit Secretary.

“We enjoy strong working relationships with our counterparts in the Irish Government. We intend to continue that, in the service of all the communities of Northern Ireland.”