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Security gaffe peer Lord Carlile is head of panel probing paramilitaries

By Staff Reporter

Published 23/09/2015

Rosalie Flanagan
Stephen Shaw QC

A senior Liberal Democrat peer involved in a security breach here has been appointed to head up a three-person panel set up to pass judgment on paramilitary activity next month.

As part of his remit as independent reviewer of the UK's anti-terror laws, Lord Carlile conducted an inquiry into security arrangements for the Northern Ireland judiciary in 2014.

However, as part of the review his office wrote to members of the NI judiciary in March of that year using their full professional titles and home addresses - a serious breach of security protocols.

In spite of the blunder being reported to the PSNI, some judges received a second letter to their homes - again bearing their full personal details.

So far all the parties at the talks have accepted the new panel, though Sinn Fein was cautious.

"It is not so much who is on the panel - we weren't asked to approve or appoint them," a spokesman said. "It is more what powers they have. We see this as a device to get unionists into talks and are asking them to get on with it."

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers will be pleased there were no outright rejections among the five main parties and that the talks can continue.

However, there could be disagreements when further details are revealed because the DUP wants a permanent monitoring body with the power to punish parties, while Sinn Fein wants a one-off panel with no powers to override election results by suspending MLAs.

The three-member panel has the task of gathering material from the PSNI, MI5, HM Revenue and Customs, the National Crime Agency and, possibly, MI6 before producing a report that will show the state of play following last month's murder of Kevin McGuigan.

The panel will also look at smuggling and other rackets which are suspected to be linked to loyalist and republican paramilitary groups.

The other two members of the panel are Rosalie Flanagan and Stephen Shaw QC.

Ms Villiers said they would bring "rigour, integrity and independence" to the job. All are eminent but not household names.

Two out of the three are based here. The exception is Lord Carlile, a peer of Polish descent who used to be a Scottish MP.

However, he does have extensive experience in Northern Ireland.

He has was the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation from 2001-2011 and has been responsible for reviewing national security here since 2007.

National security in Northern Ireland is overseen by MI5 and is mainly focused on republican paramilitaries. The police deal with loyalist groups.

This means that Lord Carlile has the highest level of security clearance.

Ms Flanagan is well-known at Stormont and Whitehall.

She has worked in several departments in Northern Ireland, and, after devolution, for OFMDFM.

A former colleague said that she had "mid-level security clearance for her work".

Ms Flanagan has also worked in London for the Treasury.

She attended St Dominic's High School, Belfast, and studied pure mathematics as a student at Queen's University.

She is married and has two daughters and a son.

The final member, Mr Shaw, has practised at the Northern Ireland Bar since 1980 and took silk in 2001.

A mediation specialist, he has worked for banks and public companies as well as the Speaker of the Assembly and local and central government.

He has a detailed knowledge of political structures and what could be done if the report implicated a party in criminality.

Belfast Telegraph

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