My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Shaun Woodward) has made the following Ministerial Statement.
I have received the 21st first 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.
Although falling outside their reporting period, the IMC comment on the murders of Constable Stephen Carroll, Sappers Mark Quinsey and Patrick Azimkar, and the wounding of others at the beginning of March. They note the involvement of dissident republicans in these murders and attribute the current ongoing violence to an attempt to destroy the peace process. They will comment on these cases in their next report, due in October 2009.
Dissident republicans do pose a serious challenge. They are small but dangerous criminal factions who are determined to drag Northern Ireland back to the past. Their actions have no significant support in the community. There is an overwhelming common purpose against them. The political process continues to work for the benefit of Northern Ireland through the Assembly and Executive. Dissidents will not be able to derail the progress made. The completion of devolution will do more than anything to undermine the dissidents and will provide a firm foundation for Northern Ireland to move forward.
The IMC report also comments on Loyalist organisations. They report that there are some signs that the UDA are now facing the challenge of the decommissioning of weapons, and that some of the leadership of the UVF increasingly recognise that the organisation must tackle decommissioning.
I made clear in February this year that I have asked the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning for a further report on progress towards decommissioning in August this year. If there has not been substantial progress I will return to Parliament and bring an end to the decommissioning amnesty period earlier than the current February 2010 deadline.