Mitchell Reiss joins North commission to tackle paramilitarism

President Bush’s former special envoy one of four members of monitoring body

Mitchell Reiss was appointed by Northern Secretary James Brokenshire. Photograph: Eric Luke

Mitchell Reiss was appointed by Northern Secretary James Brokenshire. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

President George W Bush’s former special envoy to Northern Ireland, Dr Mitchell Reiss, is to be one of the four members of the new Independent Reporting Commission in the North.

The commission is one of a series of measures set out in the November 2015 Fresh Start Agreement to tackle paramilitarism and organised crime.

It was one of the methods designed to prevent former First Minister Peter Robinson and the DUP from quitting the Northern Executive after the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton stated the IRA still existed and some of its members were implicated in the August 2015 murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast.

It is modelled on the former Independent Monitoring Commission which reported on the activities of republican and loyalist paramilitaries .

The commission will start operations in the new year and run until 2021 with each member receiving an annual payment of £17,500. A treaty to establish the body was signed between the Irish and British Governments in Dublin last September.

Dr Reiss was appointed by Northern Secretary James Brokenshire.

The Irish Government has appointed former senior civil servant Tim O’Connor, who was heavily involved in the peace process.

The Northern Executive, which had two nominees, has appointed the former leader of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, Monica McWilliams, and prominent Co Down solicitor John McBurney.

The commission will provide a report at least once a year to both governments on what progress is being made to end paramilitarism.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan, who was at Stormont on Wednesday for a review of the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement, said the commission would “have a crucial role in our collective work to deal with the legacy of paramilitarism in society”.

Armed campaign

Mr Brokenshire said he was delighted Dr Reiss had accepted the appointment. Dr Reiss was President Bush’s special Northern Ireland envoy from 2003 until 2007 and was engaged in peace process issues in 2005 when the IRA decommissioned its weapons and formally stated that its armed campaign was over.

“His international standing and expertise as a former senior diplomat and special envoy will provide strong skills to the body which has been established as one of the Fresh Start commitments to eliminate paramilitarism and tackle organised crime,” said Mr Brokenshire.

Mr O’Connor, a native of Kileedy in west Limerick, was a senior Department of Foreign Affairs official and part of the Government’s negotiating team for the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He was consul general in New York and served as secretary general to President Mary McAleese at Áras an Uachtaráin from 2007 to 2010.

Prof McWilliams was a co-founder of the women’s coalition which also was involved in the Belfast Agreement negotiations.

Mr McBurney is a veteran solicitor, who has represented Mr Robinson and the DUP in the past, and has long experience in major litigation, commercial transactions, conveyancing and estate management.