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Formation of paramilitaries monitoring panel hailed as decisive step

Published 13/09/2016

James Brokenshire is the Northern Ireland Secretary
James Brokenshire is the Northern Ireland Secretary

The creation of a new body to report on paramilitaries in Northern Ireland marks a decisive step toward ending their criminality, the region's Secretary of State has said.

James Brokenshire pledged his support for efforts to end all forms of paramilitary activity ahead of signing a treaty with the Irish Republic to establish a new monitoring panel to assess the scale of the problem and monitor efforts to stamp it out.

The Independent Reporting Commission (IRC), jointly formed by the UK and Irish governments, will provide external scrutiny on efforts to deal with paramilitarism.

It was one of the measures agreed in last year's Fresh Start Agreement between the two governments and Stormont's leaders.

Mr Brokenshire and Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan will sign a treaty to establish the IRC in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon.

"There was never any justification for paramilitary groups, there is none today and there will not be in the future," the Secretary of State said ahead of the event.

"The IRC provides for an independent review of progress towards disbanding paramilitary groups which continue to blight our society.

"For generations, paramilitary activity wrecked lives in Northern Ireland, and for many people the repercussions continue."

The IRC's annual reports will be published by the UK and Irish Governments, which are also entitled under the terms of the treaty to jointly request further reports as required.

The Commission may make recommendations to the Northern Ireland Executive to inform future Programme for Government priorities and commitments.

The IRC will have four members, including persons of "international standing".

The UK and Irish Governments will nominate one member each; the Northern Ireland Executive two members.

Mr Flanagan said: "This is another landmark day for Northern Ireland as we will be signing, on behalf of our respective governments, the international agreement to establish the Independent Reporting Commission. This is an important step in implementing the Fresh Start Agreement provisions to eliminate paramilitarism and tackle organised crime."

He said he would hold talks with Mr Brokenshire on the still stalled efforts to establish new mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

"As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, it is vital that the Irish and British Governments continue to work together in a spirit of partnership to deliver on the full promise of that agreement and subsequent agreements," he said.

"Of course, we will also be continuing our discussions on the implications for Northern Ireland of a UK-exit from the EU."

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