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Northern Ireland

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:40 pm on 16th July 2013.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 12:40 pm, 16th July 2013

I very much welcome the comments of the shadow Secretary of State and particularly his joining me in condemning the violence. He is right to identify some of the attacks as deliberate attempts to murder police officers, which is utterly unacceptable and shocking. I will run through his long list of questions.

On the gravity of the injuries, the last update that I received was that overall, the injuries were not serious, although some police officers have been hospitalised. All those who were hospitalised as a result of the riots on 12 July were released from hospital fairly soon afterwards. I am not quite sure of the position on all the injuries that occurred last night, but my impression from my conversation with the Chief Constable this morning is that, thankfully, the injuries are again not of a serious nature. On the distribution of the injuries between mutual aid officers and PSNI officers, the figure for mutual aid officers over the weekend was two. Again, it is not clear whether any mutual aid officers were among those who were injured last night.

On the number of mutual aid officers, about 1,000 have been deployed over the past few days. Some will be going home and fresh mutual aid officers will be coming to Northern Ireland to provide assistance, so the numbers are relatively flexible. The Chief Constable is ensuring that he has the necessary resources.

The cost of the policing operation falls on the Department of Justice. Another damaging consequence of the events of recent days is that they put more pressure on police budgets.

The PSNI will naturally investigate what evidence there is of the involvement of the paramilitaries and assess who needs to be arrested. There has been a claim of responsibility from Oglaigh na hEireann in relation to the pipe bomb improvised explosive device that was thrown from the Ardoyne at police officers.

I agree that meaningful dialogue is the way forward. I have had a range of conversations on parading matters over recent months with residents’ groups, the Orange Order, the First and Deputy First Ministers, and other leading members of Northern Ireland’s political establishment. The Northern Ireland Office also sponsored a conference at Cardiff to promote dialogue and to keep people in touch with the police and one another in an attempt to defuse tensions in such situations.

I have had a number of conversations with the Tanaiste about the current situation and about a way forward, for example through the Richard Haass working group. I look forward to supporting the Executive in respect of the work of that group in whatever way they request.