Security issues top agenda at British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body

Security in Northern Ireland is likely to dominate next week’s meeting of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body in Oxford. The Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward will be cross-examined by SDLP Deputy Leader and South Belfast MP, Dr Alasdair McDonnell, about the murder of Paul Quinn at Oram, County Monaghan.

Many say that the IRA didn’t sanction the brutal slaughter of Mr Quinn but the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) says that the culprits “included people who are members or former members or have associations with members or former members of the Provisional IRA.” If connections are found to a decision of the Provisionals or to key personnel, this murder could yet have wide-ranging political implications for the power-sharing government in the North.

Shankill-born Baroness May Blood will also raise the issue of the proposed heavy-grade security fence to be built in the playground of the Hazelwood Integrated Primary School in North Belfast. The school is on an interface between Protestant and Catholic estates and the fence is justified by British ministers as necessary to prevent attacks on Catholic residents. It is likely to be seen as a major symbol of the continuing divisions in Northern Ireland which has more such walls and deeper segregation since the peace process started.

Other heavyweight political figures from both sides of the Irish Sea such as former British Security Minister Michael Mates and long-term Irish Government adviser Martin Mansergh will add their views to the Body’s assessment of the changing security situation in Northern Ireland.

Gary Kent is a graduate of international relations. After spells in management in British Rail and the Co-Op he began work in parliament in 1987 where he was active for two decades on Anglo-Irish peace activity against terrorism and now as secretary of the all-party parliamentary group on the Kurdistan Region in Iraq, which he has visited 27 times since 2006. He used to be a columnist for Fortnight Magazine and writes a regular column for the Kurdish Rudaw outlet and many other publications.