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Written Answers. - Northern Ireland Issues.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 33. Ms McManus Information on Liz McManus Zoom on Liz McManus  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if he has sought or received a report from the British authorities regarding the recent break-in at the Castlereagh offices of the Police Service of Northern Ireland in which sensitive documents are reported to have been taken; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10271/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen On Sunday 17 March last, three people broke into a special branch office at Castlereagh police complex, assaulted a police officer and took certain documentation. The identities of those responsible are unknown, as are their exact intentions.

In the wake of the incident, the Secretary of State, Dr. John Reid, characterised the incident as a “breach of national security.” He announced the setting up of a review by Sir John Chilcot, former head of the Northern Ireland Office. Mr Colin Smith, a former Chief Constable of Thames Valley Constabulary, will assist Sir John, acting as an assessor. The terms of reference of the review are to establish how unauthorised access was gained to a Special Branch office, the extent of any damage caused to national security, the adequacy of action subsequently taken to mitigate any such damage and to prevent unauthorised access there and in similar buildings elsewhere in Northern Ireland, and wider lessons to be learned. Dr. Reid will make a further statement once the review is concluded. This review will run parallel with the criminal investigation being headed by Detective Chief Superintendent Phil Wright of the PSNI. The Policing Board has a crucial role to play in this matter as the body to which the Police Service of Northern Ireland must account for its actions. It is critical that the issue is managed in a way that not only protects the public but encourages the public to have confidence in policing.

We have raised our serious concerns about the break-in at Castlereagh police complex with the British Government through the Secretariat of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. These discussions are ongoing as we seek to unravel this perplexing and disturbing event. We do not yet have sufficient facts to say how this break-in was achieved. It will be some time before we have an idea as to why it was done. We cannot prejudge the outcome of the investigations currently taking place, but I can say with certainty that confidence in policing, in the rule of law and in justice requires that we get to the bottom of the break-in, who did it and for what purpose. The truth must be established and the perpetrators must be brought to justice. That is the fundamental requirement to ensure that pub[776] lic concerns arising from this affair are fully and satisfactorily resolved.

Question No. 34 answered with Question No. 28.


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