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Ken Maginnis MP, Ulster Unionist
"This is why disarmament is so important"
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BBC Northern Ireland's Rosie Billingham reports
Paramilitiaries are growing increasingly frustrated with situation
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Saturday, 4 March, 2000, 18:40 GMT
Concern over dissident threat

Report says paramilitaries are aiming to unleash fresh violence
Irish prime minister Bertie Ahern has agreed with a Home Office report which says paramilitaries in Northern Ireland are planning fresh violence.

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Mr Ahern said concern was focused on dissident groups but there was no evidence to suggest the main republican and loyalist terrorist groups were implicated.

"We have no particular information, but it has been well known for a long time that the security forces north and south of the border and in Britain have been very concerned about groups of dissidents," he said.

Speaking in advance of an address to his party's annual conference in Dublin in which he is expected to outline the government's efforts to rescue the deadlocked peace process, the taoiseach said the security forces would have to remain "very vigilant".

"They are dealing with smaller numbers now, but obviously people who are highly dangerous."

The taoiseach's comments follow the publication of the annual report on the Prevention of Terrorism Act by Crown Court recorder John Rowe.

He said that during his "regular visits" to Northern Ireland he was convinced there was still a need for tough powers to curb the activities of republican and loyalist paramilitaries.

The draft order to renew the act was presented to the House of Commons on Friday.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said it would be debated some time in the next three weeks before the Act expired at midnight on 21 March.

According to the report, weapons seizures have not dropped during the past year and terror groups have been carrying out weapons and arms training.

Mr Rowe did not identify which terror groups were planning attacks, but stressed his evidence was based on lengthy conversations with officials and members of the security forces of all ranks.

In his report, Mr Rowe, who also accompanied security patrols, said: "First, paramilitary groups are still in existence, and they are known to have structure and organisation and they apply expertise to their planning and management.

"Second, throughout 1999 there has been continuing incidence of deaths, injury, and damage to property, carried out by paramilitary groups.

"Firearms, and ammunition, and bombing and explosive devices have been discovered, and this, among other things, is clear evidence that paramilitary groups have been making preparations to make violent attacks on the community."

Ken Maginnis MP: Concerned but "not surprised"
Ulster Unionist security spokesman Ken Maginnis said although the report was "very disturbing". it was not surprising to people who lived in Northern Ireland.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Some of the finds of weapons and explosives of recent days have been very clearly tied to Provisional IRA.

"The language that is being used by Sinn Fein, particularly in the wake of the crisis we had in the Assembly when it had to be suspended, indicates they have not ruled out terrorism."

Mitchell McLaughlin: Critical of timing of report
Sinn Fein assembly member Mitchel McLaughlin criticised the timing of the report's publication and accused the Home Office of "news management".

He said the sole purpose of the report was to justify the renewal of the legislation - which under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the government agreed to abolish.

Dissident republicans have been linked with attempted attacks on army bases in Londonderry and Dungannon, Co Tyrone, recently.

There has also been growing concern about a feud amongst loyalist paramilitary groups.

Three recent murders have been linked with growing tension between the Loyalist Volunteer Force and Ulster Volunteer Force.
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See also:

16 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Bid to rescue NI peace
28 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
'End feud' loyalist politician appeals
01 Mar 00 |  Northern Ireland
Dissidents claim army attack
25 Feb 00 |  Northern Ireland
Army probes barracks explosion
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