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Text of a Letter from Shaun Woodward to the Chairman of the Policing Board (18 January 2006)

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Text: Shaun Woodward... Page compiled: Brendan Lynn

Text of a Letter from Shaun Woodward, then a Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) with responsibility for Security and Policing matters, to Des Rea, then Chairman of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, (18 January 2006).


"Yesterday's briefing has raised some serious issues which we must address.

First, let me be clear that there is no dichotomy between myself as Chair of the OCTF, and the PSNI.

As I said yesterday, my comments of 13 December have been caricatured by taking them out of context. There is clearly a distinction to be made between the activity of individuals and the intention of organisations.

The point I have been making is that Government believes that the Provisional leadership intends to take the organisation in a different direction.

I am clear, as are the PSNI, that there have been significant changes in PIRA activity, including in the area of criminality, since July. But there are complex assessments to be made in distinguishing between criminality by individual PIRA members for their own gain and criminality carried out by PIRA members which is authorised by the organisation.

It is the job of the IMC to comment on these difficult issues. We are all agreed, and have repeatedly said, that what is critical is the forthcoming independent assessment of the IMC.

As Chair of the OCTF, I am assured by the Chief Constable and his senior team that organised crime, from any source will continue to be pursued rigorously and I fully support that approach.

I agree that the Policing Board should be briefed on how the OCTF is tackling organised crime. However I must express the view that yesterday's breach of confidentiality is a matter of considerable concern. We must consider together how Ministers and senior police officers can provide important and sensitive briefings to the Policing Board in the future, ensuring that confidentiality is maintained.

Given the public interest which has now arisen following yesterday's confidential briefing, I am putting this letter into the public domain since it deals with a breach of confidentiality which led to a distorted and misleading discussion in the media, grossly misrepresenting my views.

I have of course discussed the contents of this letter with the Chief Constable who is content that this letter should be put into the public domain."


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