Saturday 25 November 2017

Frances Fitzgerald: 'Desperately distressing Oregon college killer Chris Harper-Mercer was influenced by IRA'

Chris Harper Mercer who has been identified by US media as the gunman in Oregon shooting in which at least nine people died and dozens more were wounded
Chris Harper Mercer who has been identified by US media as the gunman in Oregon shooting in which at least nine people died and dozens more were wounded
Frances Fitzgerald

It is "desperately distressing" that Chris Harper-Mercer, who killed at least 10 people at a US college, was seemingly influenced by certain IRA related images, said Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

English born Harper-Mercer, who opened fire at Umpqua Community College in Oregon yesterday, had an ‘Ireland Freedom Fighters’ album on his MySpace page.

Among his social media profiles was other content linked to the IRA.

Speaking this morning, Minister Fitzgerald said "radical groups" will always attract followers.

"This is why we have to crack down hard. When you have a culture of violence in any country, it can be used as an excuse. It radicalises people.

"It means we have to continually work for peace."

READ MORE: Oregon shooting: Gunman who shot nine people at college 'idolised IRA'

She also revealed criminal groups still represent a "severe threat" to the peace process in Northern Ireland.

But she insisted huge strides have been made to tackle paramilitary involvement in organised crime.

Following a meeting with the Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan this week, she said a "number of enquiries are going on" north and south of the border.

"What we do know is that there is still a severe threat in the North.

"We do face a threat to the peace process in an ongoing way from dissident groups.

"We also have people involved in criminal activity, who were previously members of the Provisional  IRA.

READ MORE: Gunman who killed nine asked students to state their religion before he opened fire

"So we have serious issues, but be clear about one thing, no blind eye is being turned on anyone. We have ongoing prosecutions in relation to cross-border crime.

"There has also been quiet a number of successes in joint operations between the PSNI and An Garda Siochana."

Referring to domestic politics, she played down suggestions of a snap election in November - but conceded the coalition parties are firmly in election mode.

"It's fair to say both parties have been making preparations and are well advanced. As the Taoiseach has consistently stated the election will be next year, "she said.

The Minister was speaking this morning at the Government's launch of a new 'six point plan' to create more jobs for those with disabilities.

One of the key aims of the ten-year plan is to double the number of people in this group working in the public service within a three year period.

The "comprehensive employment strategy" was launched in Farmleigh House by the Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

People with disabilities are only half as likely to be in employment as others of working age.

The Taoiseach said this strategy will ensure this section of the population will not be left behind as the economy recovers.

Up to 600,000 people in Ireland are affected by some level of disability.

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