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Protection rackets still rife in NI

TERRORIST extortion on construction sites in Northern Ireland is still rife, MPs have warned.

The Northern Ireland Affairs select committee said construction firms in the province were paying between £450 and £750 a week in 'security' payments to paramilitary groups.

In private meetings with contractors MPs heard firms had paid six-figure sums to the Provisional IRA and a five-figure sum to the Ulster Volunteer Force over a year.

The report said: 'We were deeply disturbed by the evidence that builders simply felt they had no choice but to make protection payments, such was the overt threat and fear of reprisals.

'We were left in no doubt about the damaging impact this was having.'

In May, the Northern Irish Police Service set up a confidential extortion hotline to deal with the problem.