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McGuinness 'impressed' by panel advising on disbanding paramilitary groups

Published 09/03/2016

Martin McGuinness said he was impressed by the panel
Martin McGuinness said he was impressed by the panel

An expert panel advising the Executive on disbanding paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland has met a wide range of people, Martin McGuinness said.

The three-member team is to report back to the Executive before the end of May. It was envisaged as part of last year's Fresh Start agreement at Stormont.

Its members include former Women's Coalition founder Monica McWilliams and ex-Alliance Party leader and ceasefires monitor Lord Alderdice.

Mr McGuinness said: "They are a good panel, very focused on what needs to be done, people with a wide range of experience in terms of the situation here in the North.

"I am very impressed by the way that they have not just presented their work to us in the initial period but the wide range of people that they are engaging with, stakeholders in our society.

"It has to be a priority for all of us."

He and First Minister Arlene Foster gave evidence to their scrutiny committee at Stormont.

The panel was appointed before Christmas to develop recommendations for an official strategy to disband paramilitary groups.

It followed a killing by members of the Provisional IRA, although the chief constable insisted the organisation was not on a war footing.

The Deputy First Minister said the only reason these political institutions stayed together over the course of the last mandate and for several years before that was the ability of the parties to stand together and send a very clear message that they would not allow violence to bring down power-sharing.

Under Fresh Start it was planned to have a Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition established this month, made up of independent and political members.

Mrs Foster said her department had advertised for independent members and received some party nominees back but not the SDLP's.

The First Minister said the commission would be in place at the appropriate time.

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