Northern Ireland: Political Situation

Part of Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 12:43 pm on 8th September 2015.

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Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland 12:43 pm, 8th September 2015

I thank the shadow Minister for his support. Let me deal with his questions.

In relation to the existence of the provisional IRA, my assessment is the same as that of the Chief Constable, and the assessment that I have been given by security advisers during my time as Secretary of State is broadly in line with the summary given by the Chief Constable that I outlined earlier: the continued existence of some organisational structures, with no involvement in paramilitarism or terrorism, but with individual members pursuing criminality for personal gain to pursue personal agendas.

As for the IMC, it is an important issue to consider, and I think that we would want to consider it as part of the talks. It may well be the case that if an IMC-type body were set up, we would want to ask it different questions from those that were asked by the IMC; but it is, of course, a model that we should consider when proceeding with the important process of dealing with the issues related to continuing and wholly unacceptable paramilitary activities.

The hon. Gentleman asked at what point the Northern Ireland Executive would become unsustainable. I am afraid that it is already unsustainable. There are already Ministers who feel that they cannot sign off projects because of the uncertainty surrounding the future availability of funds. I think that those matters are very urgent.

I am conscious that the issue of suspension is very sensitive. I have received representations on it from the Democratic Unionist party. I understand the DUP’s concerns, but the Government do not feel that it would be right to suspend the institutions at this stage and in these circumstances. If the circumstances were to change in the future, we would of course need to look at all our options.

As for the welfare reform matters, I said that we would be prepared to legislate as a last resort, but we are not at that stage yet. My priority will be working with the parties to find a way to ensure that the welfare package in the Stormont House resolution is implemented, because it is a good deal for Northern Ireland. The voluntary redundancy scheme is expected to start its operation with the first participants leaving their roles at the end of this month.