Northern Ireland

Owen Paterson rejects government talks with dissidents

Owen Paterson Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Secretary of State Owen Paterson said that there is an "enormous effort" to combat dissidents

The Secretary of State has rejected claims in a Sunday newspaper that the government wants discussions with dissident republicans.

The Sunday Times said talks were being sought through intermediaries despite opposition from the Irish government.

Owen Paterson said that he believed that it was impossible to talk with those not committed to peaceful means.

Dissidents have carried out a number of attacks in the past week, including the bombing of a police station in Derry.

Mr Paterson said that he was in "full agreement" with the Irish government on the issue of talks.

He added that dissidents were a "tiny number of people" who were acting against the expressed will of the population.

He denied that they were able to "strike at will".

"There is an enormous effort going on. There is quite unprecedented cooperation between the UK government and the government in the Republic.

"Already this year the PSNI have made 147 arrests against 106 for the whole of last year."

Meanwhile, the acting chairman of the Policing Board has said that it is costing "tens of millions of pounds" to counter the threat from dissident republicans.

Brian Rea said that the police had been "working relentlessly" to counter the "scourge" of dissidents, who have also tried to kill an Army officer and a Catholic police officer in the past seven days.

He added: "Tens of millions of pounds are being spent to eradicate this. Brave officers are on the front line working day and night to keep us safe and they need the support of everyone in the community."

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