Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Fourth Report



  1. Terrorism is about gaining power through violence, and money is a means to that end. The murders, threats of physical violence and forced exile, and the flaunting of illegally obtained wealth by paramilitaries demonstrate to their victims, local communities and a wider audience the power wielded by terrorist organisations.

  2. The acquisition of money (and the laundering of illegal money) is an essential component in devising and pursuing an effective and sustained terrorist campaign. Therefore, the imperative in mitigating and disrupting terrorist atrocities and influence is to cut terrorists, and their supporters, off from their money. This will prevent them from buying the explosives, weapons, vehicles and communication systems they need and thwart their financial frauds and scams.

  3. There is now also another side to terrorism. Increasingly, paramilitaries are engaged in the establishment of organised criminal gangs and structures. A particularly vicious strain of organised crime has flourished in Northern Ireland in recent years, some of which is now being exported to and taking root in other parts of the United Kingdom. It has become a primary source of income for the terrorists in Northern Ireland, individually and collectively.

  4. For more than 25 years Northern Ireland and other parts of the United Kingdom suffered the direct consequences of terrorist violence, motivated by ideological or political goals. We know that many people believe that the peace process has put an end to terrorism in, or originating from, Northern Ireland. The citizens of Northern Ireland know that this is not the case. In spite of the ceasefires there is a considerable, and disturbing, body of evidence of continuing paramilitary activity in the field of fundraising, organised crime, and in terrorism. This activity has spread far beyond Northern Ireland itself.

  5. During the inquiry we visited the United States, where we heard of Provisional IRA (PIRA) re-armament, as revealed by the trial and conviction of self-confessed PIRA member Conor Claxton and his associates on charges of smuggling arms to the Republic of Ireland. Mr Claxton and his group were seeking to acquire weapons from the USA in 1999, and were brought to trial there in 2000. The US House of Representatives Committee on International Relations began investigating the links between the IRA and the FARC in April this year,[1] following the arrest in 2001 of IRA explosives engineers in Colombia. The Chairman of that Committee has commented that the benefits of such a link for the IRA are "probably money derived from the FARC's drug trade, as well as an ability to test and improve new weapons and methods of destruction for use elsewhere".[2] Nor should we forget that dissident Republican terrorists have launched attacks on Great Britain eight times since June 2000.[3]

  6. Our inquiry was not exclusively concerned with Republican terrorism, although the acts listed above have been more widely reported than the activities of the Loyalist paramilitaries. Paramilitary activity remains a feature of life within both traditions in Northern Ireland. Individuals are still being murdered, threatened or forced into exile from their families and communities. Beatings occur almost daily.[4] Whether paramilitary activity is directed outwards towards society at large, or inwards towards the communities in which the paramilitaries live, these are still acts of terror. They must be stopped.

  7. We decided to carry out our inquiry last July, with the intention of examining how Government strategy had evolved since the Northern Ireland Office first established a specialist unit to assist the then RUC in tackling terrorist financing, in 1988.[5] Since then, the shocking events of September 11th 2001 have provided an additional incentive for our investigations. We have received both formal and informal oral and written evidence from a number of organisations and individuals, within the UK and in the Republic of Ireland and the United States. In view of the sensitivity of a number of those discussions, we resolved at the start of the inquiry that we would hear all the evidence in private: for various reasons, we have decided that certain parts of what we heard should remain private. The parts of the evidence which we have reported to the House are published in the appendices and Minutes of Evidence to this Report.

  8. Much of what we have learned has been very positive. We have been encouraged by the evidence we have received that the Government is tackling these issues, and developing powerful and effective strategies to counter them. We are very grateful to all those - both here, and in the Republic of Ireland and the United States of America - who have shared their knowledge and experience with us so freely. We received a valuable introduction to this subject from Dr Andrew Silke, who has researched the effects of loyalist paramilitary fundraising on society in Northern Ireland over several years. We would also like to thank our specialist adviser on terrorist financing, Alistair Munro.

1   The FARC is a Marxist guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which has strong links with the Colombian drugs trade. Back

2   At; and Back

3   Q111 Back

4   A recent parliamentary answer recorded 19 paramilitary-style attacks in the period 31 March - 30 April 2002 (Official Report, 15 May 2002 c711W). Separately published research records that 19% of the victims of Loyalist paramilitary assault, and 34% of the victims of Republican paramilitary assault in 2001 were children ("One year on and still kids live in peril", Belfast Telegraph 16 May 2002) Back

5   Ev p 71 Back

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Prepared 2 July 2002