Criminal groups still 'a threat to peace' - Minister
Published 03/10/2015 | 02:30
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has revealed criminal groups still represent a "severe threat" to the peace process in Northern Ireland.
But she insisted huge strides have been made to tackle paramilitary involvement in organised crime.
Following a meeting with Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan this week, she said a "number of enquiries are going on" north and south of the Border.
"What we do know is that there is still a severe threat in the North," she said
"We do face a threat to the peace process in an ongoing way from dissident groups.
"We also have people involved in criminal activity, who were previously members of the Provisional IRA.
"So we have serious issues, but be clear about one thing, no blind eye is being turned on anyone. We have ongoing prosecutions in relation to cross-border crime.
"There has also been quite a number of successes in joint operations between the PSNI and An Garda Siochána."
Speaking to the Irish Independent, she said it is "desperately distressing" that Chris Harper-Mercer, who murdered at least 10 people at a college in Oregon in the US on Thursday, was seemingly influenced by certain IRA-related images.
English-born Harper-Mercer, who opened fire at Umpqua Community College, had an 'Ireland Freedom Fighters' album on his MySpace page.
Among his social media profiles was other content linked to the IRA.
Minister Fitzgerald said "radical groups" will always attract followers.
"This is why we have to crack down hard. When you have a culture of violence in any country, it can be used as an excuse. It radicalises people. It means we have to continually work for peace," she added.
Referring to domestic politics, she played down suggestions of a snap election in November - but conceded the Coalition parties are firmly in election mode.
"It's fair to say both parties have been making preparations and are well advanced. As the Taoiseach has consistently stated, the election will be next year," she said.
The minister was speaking yesterday at the Government's launch of a new 'six-point plan' to create more jobs for those with disabilities.
The "comprehensive employment strategy" was launched in Farmleigh House by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.