Need for IMC or ‘fresh process’ to challenge paramilitaries

Alliance Minister Stephen Farry says party are supporters of monitoring commission

Stephen Farry was speaking after an Alliance delegation met Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers at Stormont on Thursday. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA

Stephen Farry was speaking after an Alliance delegation met Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers at Stormont on Thursday. File photograph: Paul Faith/PA

 

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) or a new organisation set up to monitor paramilitary activity in the North could help to assess the current situation, the Alliance Party has suggested.

The comments from the Alliance’s Minister for Employment and Learning Stephen Farry follow similar remarks from Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) leader Mike Nesbitt.

“We are certainly very keen supporters of the IMC and indeed we played a very major role in the creation of that body . . . There is the need for some sort of ‘challenge function’, what we mean by paramilitaries in today’s society,” Dr Farry said.

“Whether it’s a return to the IMC or indeed some fresh process for challenging paramilitaries, indeed we do need to go down those type of avenues.”

Dr Farry was speaking after an Alliance delegation met Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers at Stormont on Thursday. The meeting followed the crisis sparked when Chief Constable George Hamilton said IRA members were involved in the killing of Kevin McGuigan.

Mr Nesbitt, who recommended his party withdraw from the Northern Executive, said on Wednesday a new IMC-type organisation should be considered.

“We have had meetings with the Chief Constable and with the Secretary of State and that leads us to question whether we need structures, maybe old as well as new.

“We must give consideration as to whether we need a new form of international monitoring commission who can take an independent look at the situation and give us confidence about what is happening out on the streets.”

He added: “These are the sort of discussions we will be having in the days and weeks ahead.”

The IMC, set up by the British and Irish governments in January 2004, published its final report in July 2011.

Members

The members of the IMC were Joe Brosnan, retired secretary general of the Department of Justice; Lord Alderdice, former leader of the Alliance Party; John Grieve, former UK police officer; and Richard Kerr, former deputy director of the CIA.

However, Lord Alderdice was quoted in the Belfast Telegraph this week saying: “A new or recalled IMC would not be in a position to give a rapid response to the current crisis. Significant time would be needed to produce a report.”

The IMC’s final report stated that the PIRA had “however slowly, transformed itself under firm leadership and has gone out of business as a paramilitary group”.

The report contrasted this with the behaviour of loyalist groups which, “lacking comparable direction, have struggled to adapt”.

The report stated that, in previous reports, the IMC had “repeatedly explained that PIRA would not disband its historic structures with a fanfare of publicity but would allow them to atrophy”.