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Paramilitary report's findings beg for action

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 21/10/2015

But time is short; Stormont is running out of money and people are running out of patience
But time is short; Stormont is running out of money and people are running out of patience

The only real surprise to emerge from the official assessment of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland is that the IRA's Army Council is said to dictate republican political strategy and retains its historic primacy over Sinn Fein. Politically that could have been a bombshell, but the DUP's decision to go back into full-time government is a pragmatic move to offer a window of opportunity to address these problems, as well as the outstanding issues of the Stormont House Agreement.

Many people will welcome the DUP putting its ministers back in office, especially Simon Hamilton, whose in-tray in the Department of Health is bound to be overflowing. It was his absence from this vital post that led to most criticism of the party's in-out tactics of recent weeks.

But, as First Minister Peter Robinson made very clear, his party's decision does not signal an end to the controversy over paramilitary activity, particularly the concerns that IRA members were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast. Rather, it should mark the beginning of a concerted effort by all parties to ensure the disbandment of all paramilitary groups.

It is shameful that, two decades after the first ceasefires, all the main paramilitary groups still exist. While the IRA leadership is said to be committed to peace, individual members are still involved in criminality, especially large scale smuggling, and, as a concurrent Garda assessment puts it, some members are still quite prepared to put their historic reputations for violence to use.

That is an assessment which the mother of Paul Quinn, the young south Armagh man brutally beaten to death just across the border, will heartily agree with as she contends his killers included IRA men who have never been charged. She is just one of thousands of people who have had to swallow their pain in the hope of seeing a new Northern Ireland emerge free of the yoke of terrorism.

Most of the leadership of the UDA, UVF and Red Hand Commando are said to be keen to move away from violence, but a significant number of members are still wedded to violence and criminality. In effect, they have morphed into Mafia-like organisations.

This report provides an agenda for action which will demand the united efforts of all the parties. But time is short; Stormont is running out of money and people are running out of patience.

Belfast Telegraph

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