26/04/2006

IMC report finds IRA committed to 'political and peaceful path'

The Independent Monitoring Commission today published its tenth report, revealing that the body set up to monitor paramilitary activity had found the IRA leadership to be committed to "following a political and peaceful path."

In the report, the IMC stated that it had also reason to believe that the IRA had reduced its criminal activity and intelligence gathering. They still had reason to believe that some of its senior members were still involved in criminal activity, however.

The report also claimed that not all of the organisation's weaponry had been put beyond use, but it also added that these weapons had been purposely held back by local 'units' in an act of defiance towards the leaders.

Today's publication has offered encouragement to the government who feel that it will offer a helpful contribution to rebuilding of trust and confidence in the province.

Commenting on the report, Secretary of State Peter Hain said: "In respect of the Provisional IRA, the report states that 'it remains our absolutely clear view that the PIRA leadership has committed itself to following a peaceful path. It is working to bring the whole organisation fully along with it and has expended considerable effort to refocus the movement in support of its objective.'

“The report also observes that in the last three months this process has involved the further dismantling of PIRA as a military structure.”

Mr Hain continued: "The government believes that it should make a helpful contribution to the rebuilding of trust and confidence in Northern Ireland which is necessary for a return to full devolution."

A spokesperson for the IMC agreed saying that this was the most positive report so far on the IRA.

Responding to the latest report from the IMC, Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said: "The IMC has no positive or constructive role to play in the peace process and have in the past provided the pretext for political discrimination against democratically elected politicians."

"As predicted today's report from the IMC, like those before, is top heavy with allegations, but completely devoid of any evidence to back them up.”

He added: “Sinn Féin are continuing to challenge the legitimacy of this body in the courts.

The IRA has fulfilled all of the commitments made in the historic statement of July 28. They have addressed unionist concerns and removed any further excuse for non-engagement. The DUP must now decide if they want to come on board the peace process and see the re-establishment of the political institutions in the immediate time ahead. There are no excuses left for not moving forward."

UUP Leader Sir Reg Empey also expressed his opinion on the reports findings. Sir Reg said: “The latest report continues to represent progress. However the dog that didn’t bark is the IRA authorised Northern Bank robbery and the failure of republicans to return the money.

“The UUP calls for an immediate return of these funds. We continue to be concerned at the slow pace of the loyalist organisations towards exclusively peaceful means.

With regard to weapons, few members of the public would be surprised at the retention of some weapons by some of paramilitaries. The purpose of decommissioning was always to establish the intent. The reluctance of loyalists to begin this process remains a cause for concern.”

SDLP leader Mark Durkan welcomed progress on IRA activity but urged the government and the DUP to give a stronger message to loyalist paramilitaries.

Mr Durkan said that instead of throwing them concessions, the British Government must give loyalist paramilitaries the clear message that they must wind up or be shut down. He added that the DUP must be equally clear on this.

DUP leader Ian Paisley said that a full statement was needed of what the IRA had decommissioned.

He said: "The policy of the united voice of the unionist people insisting that criminality must cease is taking effect and we welcome the effect it is taking.”

(EF/GB)

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