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Independent Monitoring Commission

Volume 450: debated on Monday 9 October 2006

I have received the 11th and 12th reports of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). These reports have been made under article 5 and articles 4 and 7 of the international agreement that established the commission and reports on security normalisation; and levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland respectively. I have considered the content of the reports and I am today bringing them before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.

I thank the members of the Independent Monitoring Commission for their 11th report, their second report on security normalisation in Northern Ireland. I am pleased to note that they consider that the Government continue to fulfil their obligations to the people of Northern Ireland by ensuring their safety and security are protected.

I also thank the members of the Independent Monitoring Commission for their 12th report, and acknowledge the painstaking, methodical and objective way in which they have conducted their assessments of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland during the past three years.

The best commentary on it are the words of the IMC itself and I believe that they should be studied with care. As they note, the situation in Northern Ireland has been transformed from what it was three years ago—particularly in regard to the IRA.

As the report concludes, the IRA is not the same organization it was three years ago. The IMC’s clear conclusion is that the leadership of the IRA does not consider a return to terrorism in any way a viable option; and that it continues to direct its members not to engage in criminal activity. Importantly, the IMC assesses that the IRA has disbanded its structures which were responsible for procurement, engineering and training and has stood down volunteers.

The IMC also concludes that the leadership has maintained a firm stance against the involvement of members in criminality and taken action against members who have continued such activity. We also note that the report says that where individuals have been involved, as individuals, in criminality, that has not been sanctioned, and it should not call into question the leadership’s position.

The IMC concludes that there is convincing evidence of the IRA’s continuing commitment to the political path and believes that it is no longer credible to suggest otherwise. The significance of these statements cannot, and should not, be underestimated.

I also acknowledge and welcome the report’s finding that the work of IRA members, along with that of loyalist paramilitaries, contributed significantly to the most peaceful marching season since the 1960s.

Like the IMC, the Government, however, believe that further progress needs to be made on the issue of policing, though welcoming the report’s conclusion that the IRA leadership has accepted the need for engagement

It is also important to note the report’s conclusion that some members of the UDA and UVF continue to try to move their organizations away from violence and criminality—though, like the IMC, I agree that there is much more to do if the loyalist organizations are to match the profound change brought about by the IRA.

The Government believe that the necessary progress can be made at the upcoming talks in Scotland. But, while we accept that individual parties will, quite rightly, make their own assessment, we believe this report does lay the basis for the final settlement of the conflict in Northern Ireland—and, as such, presents a unique opportunity for this generation to reach that final resolution, an opportunity the Government hope the parties will now seize.