There were approximately 70 to 80 pipe bomb attacks throughout last year. Up to 14 February 2001, there were 62 such attacks.
The extent of pipe bomb attacks exclusively on Nationalist households is terrible. On at least four occasions, it was a miracle that there were no fatalities. In some cases, if anybody had been present at the time, there would have been fatalities.
As I said on the last occasion that I answered questions on this matter, the former Secretary of State, Mr. Mandelson, undertook to meet the relatives and local police officers. Such a meeting has taken place; the former Secretary of State's replacement has continued his work in this regard. The RUC has put in extra resources and it found at least one of the factories and some other isolated matters. However, there is still enormous fear in many areas.
It is clear that these were not isolated attacks and Deputies will recall that last year I repeatedly raised this matter in relation to Portadown. There have not been any attacks in Portadown recently; all the attacks have taken place in up to 15 towns across the North. It has been a systematic campaign even if, in the view of the political system in the North, they were not sanctioned by the leadership of any group. However, from the perspective of whoever is behind it, it has been an effective operation.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Cowen, met SDLP representatives. He also met a number of the families who have been attacked. He has addressed this with the Secretary of State. I have impressed the issues and the details on the Northern Ireland secretariat every week. I also discussed it with the British Prime Minister at the end of January, when he was with the Secretary of State, Dr. John Reid, and on numerous occasions since by telephone.
In fairness the RUC is putting extra resources into dealing with the problem but it has not eased and there has been a number of serious issues in the past week or so. We must continue to address this. Most of these pipe bombs are of similar construction. Most have been made with technology which may not be of great quality but that does not make them any less lethal. They have exploded and their potential is quite clear to everybody.