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Northern Ireland: Independent Monitoring Commission

Volume 689: debated on Tuesday 30 January 2007

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Peter Hain) has made the following Ministerial Statement.

I have received the thirteenth report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC). This report has been made under Articles 4 and 7 of the international agreement that established the commission and it reports on levels of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. I have considered the content of the report and I am today bringing it before Parliament. I have placed copies in the Library of the House.

With regard to PIRA, the IMC has identified a significant number of developments in the three months under review since its last report; all these developments have been positive and have provided further confirmation of its view that the leadership is fully committed to a political path and the successful implementation of that strategy.

As the IMC notes, the decision taken by the Sinn Fein ard fheis on 28 January to support policing and criminal justice was “a very major development” and achieved through the commitment and efforts of the Sinn Fein leadership. While it notes that opposing opinions were expressed during the course of the ard fheis, it praises the fact that such differences were expressed by political means and democratic debate. It concludes that,

“the efforts invested by the leadership of the republican movement in presenting the arguments in favour of the change were further substantial evidence of their commitment to the democratic process”.

In terms of terrorist activities, the IMC has noted a,

“continued deterioration of terrorist capability”.

It has also noted that members who had previously shown interest in acquiring small arms,

“appear not to have followed their inclination through”,

in order to obey the instructions of the leadership. It has further noted that PIRA has not been responsible for any shootings or assaults and has not conducted intelligence-gathering for any unlawful purposes; neither has it engaged in any sectarian violence, intimidation nor other forms of crime. In all the above areas, the IMC states that:

“The directions from the PIRA leadership to members have remained clear and consistent. Terrorism and violence have been abandoned”.

On loyalism, the IMC concludes that individuals have continued to show leadership in attempting to,

“guide the respective organisations away from criminality and towards both involvement in community development and democratic politics”.

However, it characterises progress across the loyalist organisations as “patchy” and urges that all should work to quicken the pace of change.

The Government believe that this report removes the final, major impediment to the restoration of stable and lasting devolution in Northern Ireland. It is now for the politicians to grasp the historic opportunity which lies before them in the coming weeks.

Once again, I am grateful to the commission for its submission of this report and for its careful analysis.