Belfast Telegraph

Experts begin task of defeating paramilitaries

By David Young, PA

A new expert panel established to monitor efforts to stamp out paramilitaries has officially begun its work.

The Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) is a key element of a strategy included in the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement to end the criminal activities of the Troubles-era gangsters. It will report annually on progress to the UK and Irish governments.

The four IRC members are former US special envoy to Northern Ireland Mitchell Reiss, ex-human rights commissioner and political leader Monica McWilliams, solicitor John McBurney and former Irish diplomat Tim O'Connor.

Having already met informally a number of times before the commission was fully up and running, the members are now starting a round of meetings with those involved in efforts to end paramilitarism.

Earlier this week, the PSNI revealed that its intensified crackdown on paramilitaries had produced nearly 100 arrests. A total of 66 were charged or reported to prosecutors, chief constable George Hamilton said.

A Paramilitary Crime Taskforce has been assembled to combat all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism, including paramilitary style attacks, extortion, intimidation, drug dealing and money laundering. The specialist police team is working with the support of the National Crime Agency (NCA) and Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

Welcoming the launch of the commission, Mr Reiss said he was grateful for the opportunity to again play a role in creating a "safe and prosperous Northern Ireland".

"I hope the commission's initiatives will help to bring about the continued transformation envisioned by the British and Irish governments, the local political parties and the citizens of Northern Ireland," he said.

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