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banner Monday, 25 September, 2000, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Crackdown on paramilitary crime
Peter Mandelson
Peter Mandelson: "No more second class citizens"
The government is to set up a new agency to crack down on organised crime linked to loyalist and republican paramilitaries, Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Mandelson has told the Labour Party conference.

The agency will have the powers to seize non-cash assets and prevent the use of land and property to launder money.

No longer will the paramilitaries be able to salt away the profits from their ill-gotten gains

Peter Mandelson
Even though the main paramilitary groups are officially on ceasefire, they are still heavily involved in racketeering, smuggling across the Irish border and widespread drug dealing.

Mr Mandelson also said that his Stormont security minister, Adam Ingram, is to bring together all the various police and customs agencies in a concerted drive to cut off the illegal activities at source.

He told conference that police in Britain and the Republic would be involved in action to "rid Northern Ireland of this mafia-like virus".

Organised crime he said, was feeding egos and financing the rump of paramilitarism which stood between Northern Ireland and the decent society the government was striving to create.

Mr Mandelson said: "While our focus, rightly, is on defeating terrorism, we must now reach further and grip the organised crime it has spawned. That does not belong in a normal, civilised society. That, too, must come to an end."

Change of emphasis

The Northern Ireland Secretary said the government would be taking new confiscation powers to recover the proceeds of crime.

He pledged: "No longer will the paramilitaries be able to salt away the profits from their ill-gotten gains. Those days must come to an end."

Northern Ireland First Minister
NI First Minister David Trimble: "Glad racketeering at top of agenda"
Mr Mandelson also warned dissident republicans that they could not bomb the peace process into submission.

He also declared that he would act against loyalists embroiled in a vicious turf war if he had to.

"My message to dissident republicans -- those who think they can bomb and maim their way to success -- is one that I want to ring loud and clear at this conference: You will not prevail," Mr Mandelson told the conference.

"I have already shown that I am prepared to act against those on the loyalist side who think they can resume their terrorist activities," Mr Mandelson said. "And, if necessary, I will act again."

He said the focus, hitherto on terrorism, must now extend "to grip the organised crime it has spawned".

Reacting to the plan as he prepared to meet Mr Mandelson at the conference, Northern Ireland First Minister David Trimble said: "I am glad to see that dealing with racketeering has got to the top of the secretary of state's agenda.

He said he hoped the legislation would be more effective that than passed following the 1998 Real IRA Omagh bombing, which killed 29 people in the County Tyrone town.

He said the new laws to give the security forces and courts more powers after the atrocity had been "useless".

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See also:

24 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Loyalist violence 'out of control'
19 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Mandelson warns against NI cynicism
22 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Blow to NI peace deal
23 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Dangerous times for Trimble
25 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
'Time not right for RUC reforms'
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