Paramilitarism Remains 'A Stark Reality' In NI

The latest report on the implementation of actions to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality, and bringing an end to paramilitarism in Northern Ireland has been published by the Independent Reporting Commission.

The Second Report sets out the Commission's further assessment of progress to date on the implementation of the provisions of the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement.

The report finds that continued paramilitarism remains a stark reality of life in Northern Ireland, as exemplified, sadly, by three further paramilitary-related murders since the last Report; Jim Donegan, Ian Ogle and Lyra McKee.

It also highlights the continuation of the adverse impact on the efforts to implement the Fresh Start Agreement initiatives that the absence of the Northern Ireland Executive since January 2017 is having, while embracing the twin-track approach set out in the Fresh Start Agreement.
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The continuing uncertainty of Brexit is another key issue highlighted by the report Commissioners. Paired with the political vacuum in Northern Ireland and increase in the number of attacks and deaths in the last year, the report founding that the task of ending paramilitarism is growing "immeasurably more difficult".

The Commissioners reiterate their analysis from their First Report of October 2018 that ending paramilitarism can only be sustainably brought about by means of a Twin Track Approach, which combines policing and justice responses alongside systemically tackling the serious socio economic deprivation facing the communities where the paramilitaries operate. In their Second Report, the Commissioners go further and recommend that tackling paramilitarism be made a new dedicated outcome in the Programme for Government as the best way of achieving the whole-of-system approach they believe is needed.

The need for enhanced neighbourhood policing, action to address the delay in cases coming before the courts and increased asset recovery were also raised. The Commissioners further believe that the time has come for consideration to be given to a Transition Process for paramilitaries as a necessary next step.

Recognising that all of this raises challenging and difficult questions, the Commissioners call for a major public debate to begin, aware that their recommendations to end continuing paramilitary activity will need the support and confidence of the whole of society.

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