42. Deputy Sean Sherlock asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the engagement he has had with his counterpart in the UK in respect of the threat of violence from so-called dissident groups. [11978/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): The Deputy will be aware that the primary security threat to the State is from republican paramilitary groups; the so-called ‘dissident’ groups. While they have become somewhat factionalised over time, they still present a real and persistent threat.
The shared assessment of the threat in Northern Ireland is that it remains 'Severe' (that is to say, a terrorist attack is highly likely). The dissident paramilitary groups continue to focus their efforts primarily on targeting members of the security forces in Northern Ireland, as evidenced tragically in recent years by the murders of NI Prison Officers Alan Black and Adrian Ismay, and a number of attempts to murder PSNI constables, including in July in Derry when a number of shots were fired at the PSNI.
The Gardaí maintain a high level of on-going, close co-operation with their counterparts in Northern Ireland and in Britain in responding to this threat. This operational relationship is absolutely central to bearing down on and disrupting the activities of these groups and, therefore, to maintaining security on the island.
The shared security threat and the response of the two Governments has been a key part of my engagement with my colleagues in the Government of the United Kingdom and was a major issue of discussion at the two meetings of the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 25 July 2018 in London and on 2 November 2018 in Dublin. The Tánaiste and I represent the Irish Government at these meetings while the British Government is represented by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, David Lidington MP, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Karen Bradley MP. In addition, I have made a point of engaging with the Home Secretary on our mutual security interests. Since the appointment of the current Home Secretary, Sajid Javid MP, in April 2018 I have met with him in London on 25 July 2018, in Luxembourg on 12 October 2018 and most recently in my office in Dublin on 12 February 2019.
Just yesterday, I spoke to the Home Secretary with regard to matters relating to the investigation into the incendiary devices which were posted to addresses in the United Kingdom last week. I expressed my utter condemnation of those who carried out this act and reaffirmed to the Home Secretary our deep commitment to continuing the close working relationship that we have with our colleagues in Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.