31/03/2011

NI's Paramilitary Watchdogs Dissolved

The very last reports from the paramilitary watchdogs on NI's illegal groups won't be seen until after the coming elections.

NI Secretary of State, Owen Paterson said: "Due to the pre-election period, the reports will be published after the Assembly elections in May on a date to be agreed by both governments."

That's some weeks after the official dissolution of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) and the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), which takes place today.

They monitored the dismantling of illegal arsenals from the paramilitaries - and while some see it as a retrospective move - given continuing dissident activity - their dissolution is seen by Sinn Fein in positive terms.

A former MLA, Raymond McCartney said the excessive amounts of public money wasted on the IMC should now be redirected to front line service and has further called for no golden handshake for members of the IMC.

"The IMC was established for no other reason than to give political cover for anti-republican unionism and has proven to be a money spinner for those involved with vast amounts of public money, to the tune of millions, being wasted on this organisation," he said.

"It has no basis to exist under the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement, had no role to play in the political process and will not be missed. The amount of money invested in this 'quango' should now be redirected into frontline services given the reality of current economic difficulties," he insisted.

The Alliance Party Justice Spokesperson, Stephen Farry, however paid tribute to their roles in providing peace and stability in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Farry said: "The Alliance Party played a pivotal role in the creation of the IMC. We had proposed the use of a ceasefire monitor in 2002 in order to provide standards in a process where confidence was being damaged by political claim and counter-claim. The past seven years of the IMC have more than fulfilled our expectations.
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"The IMC was designed to provide an independent and authoritative source of information on the activities of paramilitary organisations.

"They could counteract the danger of political decisions being taken on the basis of political rumour. Also, assessments were made on an independent basis reducing the risk that decisions on how to handle violence from politically-associated paramilitary groups would be determined by political expediency," he said, this afternoon.

"The IMC was instrumental in copper-fastening the need for a full end to all forms of violence and criminality from paramilitary groups, and that any activity was a threat to democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

"The dissolution of the IMC does not mean that problems relating to political violence and organised threats to the rule of law have finished. Rather its end reflects a consolidation of the political institutions and the support of the rule of law from all the main political players," he commented.

On the IICD, Stephen Farry said: "The IICD also played a crucial role in facilitating the decommissioning of paramilitary weapons. While the process was very drawn out, this important confidence building measure would have lacked integrity without independent verification."

Boston

The IICD and the IMC both stewarded the dismantling of illegal arsenals and reported on the activities of republican and loyalist groups as part of the peace process with the British and Irish Governments saying they helped to deliver historic change.

They said they had played an important role in ending decades of violence in Northern Ireland.

Now, as the financial year closes, the USA's Boston College has been chosen as the repository for the archive of IICD.

The documents were delivered to the Chestnut Hill campus last week.

The commission was chaired by Canadian General John de Chastelain and included Brigadier General Tauno Nieminen, a weapons inspector, and, since 1999, American diplomat Andrew Sens.

Owen Paterson concluded: "We have agreed with the IMC and IICD that the time is now right to bring the Commissions to a close and the necessary arrangements have been put in place to wind down both Commissions."

(BMcC/GK)

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