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Independent Monitoring Commission Report

Volume 517: debated on Thursday 4 November 2010

I have received the 25th report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. The IMC conclude that dissident groups continue to pose a substantial and potentially lethal threat, particularly against members of the security forces. I am today laying the report before Parliament.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) was established jointly by the British and Irish Governments in 2004 to help in the process of making the transition in Northern Ireland to a peaceful society and stable and inclusive devolved Government in Northern Ireland. In paragraph 1.5 of their 25th report the Commission refer to comments in previous reports on the

“implications for the continuation of the IMC of the peace process drawing to a close and more normal arrangements for security and the administration of justice taking over, since when we have had the devolution of policing and justice”.

Since they were formally established in 2004 they have prepared 20 reports on paramilitary activity and five reports on security normalisation in Northern Ireland. Over that period there have been significant changes in the political and security landscape in Northern Ireland.

In July 2005 the Provisional IRA announced an end to their armed campaign and in September 2005 the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) reported that the Provisional IRA had decommissioned all the arms within its control. In May 2007 the Ulster Volunteer Force made a statement renouncing violence and in June 2009 the Ulster Defence Association also issued a statement announcing that the struggle had ended. On 25 February 2010 the IICD reported to the British and Irish Governments that it had overseen the decommissioning of all the arms within the control of the UDA, UVF, Official IRA and the Irish National Liberation Army.

The Government’s security normalisation programme, including the conclusion of the military’s Operation Banner, was completed and reported on in the IMC’s 16th report.

In parallel with this programme of security normalisation, we have seen the political process firmly embedded in Northern Ireland. Devolution was restored on 8 May 2007 and devolved Government has now been up and running for the longest continuous period since 1972. Locally elected politicians from Northern Ireland are now responsible for making decisions about the issues that really matter to the people of Northern Ireland—jobs, health, education and the environment—and since 12 April 2010, policing and justice. In their last several reports the IMC have consistently assessed that, with the exception of some residual terrorist groups, the leaderships of paramilitary groups remain committed to the political process and to transforming their organisations.

The IMC have played a crucial part in supporting and enabling the historic changes that we have seen in Northern Ireland over the last 12 years. Although there remain those who have rejected peace and politics and who actively work to undermine it, Northern Ireland has made the transition to stable, local democracy and the job of the IMC is nearing completion. The two Governments have, therefore, asked the IMC to prepare one more final report on their work, including lessons learned. After that, we will bring the IMC arrangements to an end. I would like to place on record my thanks to the IMC for their work and their contribution to the developments that have taken place over the last six years.

There is a continuing public interest in ensuring that the public are informed about the threat from Northern Ireland-related terrorism. Once we have received and considered the IMC’s final report, the British and Irish Governments will do what is necessary to ensure that need is met.