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Independent Reporting Commission

Volume 614: debated on Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Independent Reporting Commission is one of a series of measures set out in the 2015 “Fresh Start” agreement to tackle ongoing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland.

Provision for the Independent Reporting Commission to be established by agreement (“the agreement”) between the UK Government and the Government of Ireland was included in the Northern Ireland (Stormont Agreement and Implementation Plan) Act 2016. The agreement was signed on 13 September.

The agreement establishes the IRC as an independent, international body. It sets out the functions, duties and membership of the IRC, and provides for certain privileges and immunities to be conferred through legislation. It also requires the commission not to do anything in carrying out its functions which might put at risk the safety or life of any person, prejudice national security interests, have a prejudicial effect on any proceedings which have, or are likely to be, commenced in a court of law, or have a prejudicial effect on the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of crime.

Paramilitary activity continues to be a scourge on Northern Ireland society and to cause untold damage to individuals and their communities. It was never justified in the past in Northern Ireland and it has no place in society today. This new commission will therefore play an important role in assisting efforts to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality.

Specifically, the Independent Reporting Commission will report on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland. It will provide assessments of the implementation of the relevant measures of the UK Government, the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive. These include oversight of the Northern Ireland Executive’s strategy to end paramilitarism.

The commission will consult a wide range of stakeholders, including law enforcement agencies, local councils, communities and civic society organisations and its reports will also inform the Executive’s programme for Government priorities through to 2021.

The commission will be independent of the UK and Irish Governments and will have a significant degree of discretion in fulfilling its functions. This independence will help to ensure the credibility of its reports and enable it to carry out its work effectively.