Two big issues dominated today’s publication of the latest assessment by the Independent Monitoring Commission — loyalist decommissioning and the threat posed by dissident republicans.
The IMC says the Real and Continuity IRA organisations — responsible for the recent murders at Massereene Barracks and in Craigavon — are attempting to “destroy the peace process”.
But Secretary of State Shaun Woodward has warned that the dissidents will not be allowed to derail progress towards the completion of devolution.
In its report the IMC stated: “The current ongoing violence is an attempt to destroy the peace process and return the community to the period of violent struggle from which it has so painfully and relatively recently emerged.
“Dissident republicans are attempting to deflect the PSNI from maintaining community policing and so disrupt the increasing community acceptance of normal policing.”
The report continued: “There is also a hope that sufficient violence would provoke an over-reaction by the authorities which would play into their hands.
“In our view, however, this is a challenge and a testing of the peace process by people who have
always been violently opposed to it. It does not represent an unravelling of the peace process.”
Importantly the report comments on the use of Semtex in dissident republican bombs.
“This has given rise to concern in some quarters that some Semtex might have been deliberately held back from PIRA decommissioning in 2005 and transferred to dissidents.
“We have found no evidence which supports such concerns.”
Today’s report also puts a spotlight on the question of loyalist decommissioning and examines the continuing debates within each of the paramilitary organisations.
On the UDA, the report stated: “We do see some signs that the challenge of the decommissioning
of weapons is now being faced as it had not been hitherto and that there has been some movement towards the point where it might be possible to act.”
The report also looks at the breakaway south-east Antrim faction. “We believe that the decommissioning of weapons is firmly on the group’s radar screen.”
And a debate continues inside the UVF.
The IMC believes that some in the leadership “increasingly recognise” that decommissioning is an issue that must be tackled.
“It will soon be apparent whether it has become a deliverable option,” the report states.
This is a reference to the August deadline set by the Secretary of State for substantial progress.
“Foot-dragging on decommissioning must end and I welcome the comments by the IMC on how both the leadership of the UDA and the UVF are looking at this issue,” the Secretary of State said.
“However the Government’s position is very clear.
“When I renewed the decommissioning amnesty for the final time in February, I asked the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning for a further report on progress towards decommissioning. That report is due in August and if there has not been substantial progress, I will bring an end to the decommissioning legislation.”