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Alderdice against recreating Independent Monitoring Commission

Published 04/09/2015

Lord John Alderdice led the Independent Monitoring Commission until 2011
Lord John Alderdice led the Independent Monitoring Commission until 2011

A former member of the commission which monitored the IRA ceasefire has said recreating the organisation to investigate paramilitary activity would not be appropriate.

Lord John Alderdice led the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) until 2011. He said it could take months to set up and added it could not address other political divisions which have driven the power-sharing government in Northern Ireland towards suspension.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and unionist politicians have said they would support establishing a new organisation similar to the IMC.

Lord Alderdice told the BBC's Talkback programme: "For people to look back at a form of treatment that worked before and say the symptoms are the same so the diagnosis is the same... the IMC was appropriate for the time and it worked but I don't think it would be an appropriate thing to bring it back.

"You would be talking about something that would take months to function in an effective way."

He said there needed to be a process to deal with political problems in Belfast within the next few weeks.

The IMC was established in 2003 by the British and Irish governments and Lord Alderdice said it took some time for it to earn credibility as an independent voice. It spoke to intelligence agencies from abroad and a range of other sources in making its assessments and established its independence from the governments, once contradicting another organisation designed to oversee IRA arms decommissioning.

The other three commissioners were Joe Brosnan (former head of the Department of Justice in Ireland), John Grieve (former head of the Metropolitan Police Anti-Terrorist Branch) and Dick Kerr (former deputy director of the CIA). Over some seven and a half years the IMC produced 26 monitoring reports on paramilitary and security activity, submitting their final report to the two governments on March 14 2011.

Lord Alderdice said there was never a statement from the IRA that it had disbanded but added people had to differentiate between the IRA of the past and today.

"I think it is obvious that there are people there who have a criminal past. They are not personally engaged in running a paramilitary campaign," he said.

Meanwhile, 94 weapons have been recovered by police in Northern Ireland over the last three years, the chief constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) George Hamilton disclosed.

A total of ten were rifles, mostly Romanian, and of a type previously used by paramilitaries. Another 40 were shotguns, a kind of weapon mostly linked to non-paramilitary criminals, the senior officer said.

A total of six sub-machine guns and 26 handguns were recovered. Another ten blank-firing pistols had been converted and were of a type previously linked to paramilitaries.

The information followed a question by Ulster Unionist Ross Hussey.

He said: "The fact that these guns have been recovered by police must be acknowledged and supported by all right thinking individuals but the question in my mind is what other guns are in the arsenal of the terrorist or criminal fraternity in Northern Ireland?

"We have seen only too recently murders on the streets of Belfast which indicate guns are easily obtained by those who wish to terrorise the community."

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