Belfast Telegraph

Paramilitry endgame may last a long time

By Brian Rowan

Maybe we need to rethink what a paramilitary endgame will look like. We have known for a long time that there was no magic wand that was going to make the IRA and the loyalist organisations vanish, that there is nothing that simple or straightforward.

But did we really know the detail of yesterday's context? For a few days there were hints in the background that the IRA Army Council would be written into the pages of this assessment.

And however that happened, whatever words were chosen and however carefully, that was always going to mean trouble; more questions, more doubts and more reasons to be cautious.

An endgame may not mean a final exit from the stage, no final curtain. And it may mean there will always be an IRA, UVF, UDA and Red Hand Commando, the organisations behind the big ceasefire decisions and announcements of 1994.

If there was no recruitment, then there would be a point when they would finally wither and fade away.

But some are still recruiting, getting bigger, for whatever reason, and holding their place on the stage. Perhaps its safety in numbers.

There has been some talk recently about the possibility of deproscribing organisations.

But that won't happen on the basis of the assessments given yesterday.

There is still too much going on, too much that the various leaderships appear unable to stop.

And there are those who hold significant paramilitary rank still linked to criminality and violence.

It would seem they have no intention of going away. For them, there are reasons to stay - self-interest and self-gain.

The loyalists launched their latest initiative at a big news event a week ago. We heard the words that day, what was intended in terms of creating distance from those still involved in violence and criminality.

But yesterday's words stemming from a PSNI/MI5 assessment show the scale of the task and the challenge. It will be easier said than done.

None of the groups has completely gone away. Whether they have any intention of doing so is still an unanswered question.

  • Brian Rowan is a writer and commentator on security issues

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