Belfast Telegraph

We need one last tribunal to find nothing but the truth

A final Legacy Commission would help to draw a line under the peace process, argues Brian Rowan

The most difficult jobs in the peace process here have been handed to commissions. Usually there is international representation - learning and experience from elsewhere.

Think of how policing was reformed, how the question of prisoner releases was answered, how guns came to be put beyond use and how organisations such as the IRA and the various loyalist groups came to be monitored beyond their ceasefires.

We had the Independent Commission on Policing - chaired by Chris Patten.

It delivered an end to the Royal Ulster Constabulary and brought the PSNI onto the stage.

Then there was an Oversight Commissioner to make sure the sweeping reforms across policing were implemented.

The Sentence Review Commission processed hundreds of prisoner releases - and it took a decade and more for the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) to persuade republicans and loyalists to put weapons beyond use.

We are still waiting for publication of the inventory compiled by General John de Chastelain and his dedicated team.

This is their counting of weapons and bullets, the weighing of explosives and the figures that tell us what it all adds up to; what has been decommissioned - and what hasn't.

Commissions are an essential part of peace building. And, when their work is done, you get a sense that progress is being made.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) has produced 23 reports in a little over six years - assessments of how the IRA and loyalist groups have changed in the peace, and how, as the threat has reduced, security has been scaled down.

Their assessments linked the IRA to the Northern Bank robbery, and in another report explained the transition from war to peace with the disbandment of paramilitary structures and senior IRA figures moving into political roles with Sinn Fein.

These reports are chapters in a story of gradual change - explaining the time it takes and the processes needed to end long conflicts.

And, soon, the work of the IMC and its four commissioners - Lord Alderdice, Joe Brosnan, Dick Kerr and John Grieve - will be done.

There may be just one more report before this particular commission leaves the stage.

If wars are really over, if organisations such as the IRA, UVF and UDA have become, or are becoming something different, then there is no longer a need for the IMC - for that type of watchdog.

In its latest assessment it linked loyalists to continuing criminality including drugs.

These are matters for the police and the courts, as they would be anywhere else in the world. After the IMC, there is a decision still to be made on one last peace process commission. Its work: to answer the many questions of a violent past.

Eames/Bradley in the report of the Consultative Group on the Past suggested a Legacy Commission with investigation and information recovery units chaired by an international figure.

Republicans have rejected the proposed model, and, if there is to be a commission, then it will have to be re-thought to achieve the widest possible participation.

Many have said there is no point in a half-truth process, so a commission should only be appointed if every side is coming to the table - that means republican, loyalist, security and the Government to begin with.

This is not just about what happened, but how to prevent it happening again.

And that means that this particular piece of work could prove to be the biggest challenge so far - bigger than prisoner releases, policing reform and putting weapons beyond use.

Will there be one more commission?

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