Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 April 2014

Paramilitary watchdog to be ended

Ex Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency Dick Kerr at a press conference announcing the end of the Independent Monitoring Commission

A watchdog which monitors Northern Ireland paramilitary activity is to be shut down despite warnings that its closure could lead to an increase in dissident republican bombings.

The British Government announced the decision to close the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) because of the wider success of the peace process.

But the announcement has come despite IMC reports that dissident bombings have doubled in the last six months in Northern Ireland and follows warnings from MI5 and the Home Office of a rise in the dissident threat.

IMC member Lord Alderdice said the bedding-down of the peace process and the devolution earlier this year of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Assembly had paved the way for the commission's closure.

He said: "We have repeatedly said, as we come to the end of the peace process, and the normal processes of the administration of justice and security properly take over as part of the normalisation of society, then all the elements of the peace process which are not meant to be permanent should step down.

"And that includes the IMC. From our point of view, particularly after the devolution of policing and justice, it seems to me that it's a perfectly natural thing for people to close down all of those non-permanent components of the peace process, of which we have been one."

Lord Alderdice denied that its closure was linked to government cuts-backs, saying: "I don't believe it's a cost saving exercise. There has never been the slightest suggestion of that from either government."

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein claimed the IMC was being wound-up because it had served the political purpose of steadying unionist nerves over the peace process and the intentions of the now inactive Provisional IRA (PIRA).

However, senior political figures in London and Dublin paid tribute to the IMC, indicating that it played a positive role in maintaining peace in Northern Ireland.

Secretary of State Owen Paterson revealed the commission would be shut down after it filed a report on the lessons it had learned since it was set-up by the British and Irish governments in 2004.

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