Skip to main content

Independent Reporting Commission: Sixth Substantive Report

Volume 742: debated on Tuesday 5 December 2023

I have received the sixth substantive report from the Independent Reporting Commission.

The Commission was established following the fresh start agreement of November 2015 to report on progress towards ending paramilitary activity. That agreement set out the Northern Ireland Executive’s commitments around tackling paramilitary activity and associated criminality, and led to a programme of work to deliver a Northern Ireland executive action plan. In the New Decade, New Approach (NDNA) agreement in January 2020, a commitment was made to ongoing work to tackle paramilitarism, and this work continues, including through a second phase of the NI Executive’s tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime programme.

In their sixth report, the Commissioners note there is increasing evidence that the programme is bearing real fruit, by fostering a partnership approach and helping to shape and inform the development of public policy and practice through the priority given to evidence and data. The Commissioners note the cumulative impact that collective law enforcement effort is having on paramilitary groups and their leaderships, and that good work continues to build resilience and strengthen protective factors of communities and individuals affected by paramilitarism.

Yet the report also reminds us that the problem of paramilitarism is enduring. We have seen on a number of occasions over the past year the disregard that paramilitary groups and those who claim affiliation with them have for public safety, and the harm and disruption they continue to cause through criminal activity and coercive control to the communities they often claim to represent.

The Commissioners have set out a number of recommendations on how the effort to tackle paramilitarism can be enhanced. We will consider recommendations for the UK Government through engagement with representatives of NI political parties, the NI Executive, the Irish Government, with civic society and community representatives in Northern Ireland, and with the Independent Reporting Commission.

Paramilitarism was never justified in the past, and cannot be justified today. The UK Government remain committed to delivering our vision of a safer Northern Ireland and to working with partners to support efforts against the enduring threat and harms posed to communities by terrorist and paramilitary groups.

Political leadership from across the political spectrum in Northern Ireland is essential to ensure it remains clear there is no place for paramilitarism. A functioning Northern Ireland Executive is the most effective mechanism for ensuring a strategic, cross-cutting approach to tackling paramilitarism in partnership with the PSNI and the wider public sector.

I would like to express my thanks to the Commissioners and the secretariat for their continued work reporting on progress towards ending paramilitarism.