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Northern Ireland Executive to discuss panel's strategy for disbanding paramilitary groups

By Noel McAdam

Published 01/06/2016

Justice Minister: Claire Sugden
Justice Minister: Claire Sugden

Proposals for a strategy to disband paramilitary groups across Northern Ireland have been sent to the Executive.

The report of a three-strong panel is expected to be debated at the next meeting of DUP and Sinn Fein ministers along with new Justice Minister Claire Sugden.

It is not clear whether the Executive will immediately make the document public.

The panel was set up as one of the key components of the 'Fresh Start' deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein last autumn, with the panel tasked with reporting back within a six-month period.

It was comprised of former Assembly speaker and Alliance leader Lord Alderdice, Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams and solicitor John McBurney.

It held talks with a wide range of groups, including the four main church leaders, and has met its deadline of completing its report by the end of May.

Now the Executive is expected to publish an 'action plan' arising from the report by the end of this month.

Ministers also plan to commission research into the "social costs and implications of paramilitarism" along with a public awareness campaign. This, they said, is aimed at raising public understanding "of the harm done by paramilitarism and organised crime".

The panel's report is also to be tied into wider programmes involving the Justice and new Communities departments and other agencies aimed at reducing community divisions

A spokesman for the Executive Office said: "The panel met with the First Minister (Arlene Foster) and Deputy First Minister (Martin McGuinness) on May 23... the handling of the report will be considered by the Executive."

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