IMC fuels calls for progress
An official report for the Dublin and London governments on allegations
of IRA and unionist paramilitary activity is the "most positive"
about the Provisional IRA following a peaceful path.
The report is the latest by the so-called Independent Monitoring
Commission (IMC), a body frequently dismissed by republicans as a
convenient prop for governmental policy.
However, the IMC's findings of further reductions in IRA activity
generated a significant amount of upbeat media coverage this week which
the two governments hope will encourage peace efforts.
DUP leader Ian Paisley welcomed the report only "in so far as it
He insisted that "the IRA continues to engage in terror and criminal
activities" and called for the seizure of alleged IRA financial assets.
Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said the IRA had already "addressed
unionist concerns and removed any further excuse for non-engagement and
There had been further dismantling of the IRA as a military structure
in the last three months, the IMC said. It also suggested that some
members or former members of the Provisional IRA were involved in
illegal activities and that some may potentially still hold guns.
The IMC said the Continuity IRA was a continuing threat, but that it
did not believe the group had been involved in rioting at the loyalist
'Love Ulster' march in Dublin earlier this year.
The IMC said that despite infighting within the Real IRA, the
organisation's "aspirations and readiness to use extreme violence
Sinn Fein chief negotiator Martin McGuinness yesterday said he had no
respect for the IMC body, which has until recently called for financial
penalties and other sanctions on his party.
"In our view the IMC have no positive or constructive role to play
the peace process. In fact, they have provided the pretext for
political discrimination against democratically elected politicians.
"As predicted today's report from the IMC, like those before, is
heavy with allegations, but completely devoid of any evidence to back
McGuinness said the political spotlight needed to fall on the DUP and
its leader Ian Paisley.
"Mr Paisley has a big decision to make," he said. "Is Ian
leader or a follower?"
Mr McGuinness said that he was "absolutely satisfied" that the
fulfilled its commitment to disarm, announced last July.
The organisation put its weaponry beyond use in a move verified by
General John de Chastelain, head of the body overseeing disarmament
under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. IRA arms decommissioning
was witnessed by Belfast Catholic priest Father Alex Reid and
ex-Methodist president the Reverend Harold Good.
DECISION TIME - HAIN
Speaking on Wednesday, British Direct Ruler Peter Hain said the time
for decisions has come and warned that the November 24 final deadline
set recently by the Dublin and London governments was "set in stone".
"We can't continue as we are and we won't," Mr Hain said, referring
contingency plans for joint government with Dublin.
He issued a call at the Westminster parliament for "mature politics"
the North as he outlined emergency measures aimed at restoring powers
to the mothballed Belfast Assembly.
He was clear the alternative scenario would involve the assembly being
scrapped for good.
Mr Hain told British MPs: "The public are heartily sick of taxpayers'
money being doled out to [assembly members] who won't do their jobs by
working together like all other elected politicians across the world."
He insisted that the November deadline represented not a threat but a
"great promise", which should be seized on to build a "new
Mr Hain was opening the debate at the second reading of the Northern
Ireland Bill, which provides for a recall of the Belfast Assembly.
Devolved local power in the North has been suspended since October
2002. All 108 members of the assembly are to attend on May 15 for the
first of two bids to form an executive.
Assembly members are to be given six weeks to restore devolution. A
second chance will be offered in September, followed by the November
Hain warned: "If we do not get an executive by 24 November, the Bill
absolutely unequivocal. The assembly members will go home. The May 2007
elections will not take place and, from November 24, the assembly
members will receive no pay."
Mr Hain said an election due in May 2007 would be postponed in any
event, so that members did not have to focus immediately on "election
positioning and campaigning".
Mark Durkan, leader of the nationalist SDLP, took issue with the
postponing of elections.
"I have a funny feeling that, whatever happens, the government will
revisiting this issue yet again," he said.
The SDLP had never believed that the timing of elections should be
"jigged about at will", said Mr Durkan. "The fact is, in
experience of devolution, institutions actually worked," he said.
Hardline unionist DUP leader Ian Paisley said he welcomed the proposed
legislation. It could give assembly members an "enhanced role"
helping to shape legislation in the North, he said.
He was referring to the possibility of certain subjects, such as water
rates and bin collections, being discussed by Assembly members in its
"transitional" mode, with a view to recommending legislation
Martin McGuinness, who held a meeting with Mr Hain earlier in the week,
said his party would only engage in the Assembly "for the purpose
electing the first and deputy first ministers and the formation of the
He appealed for the DUP to share power in the North. He said the
alternative was "bad government" by direct-rule ministers.
Mr McGuinness said: "There is no alternative to the power-sharing
arrangements set out in the Good Friday Agreement and endorsed by the
people of Ireland, North and South.
"Sinn Fein will not be part of anything short of this and we will
adamantly oppose any attempt to achieve unionist majority rule through
a shadow assembly."
He said the restoration of local government was a must for people
across the political divide.
"This is the challenge facing the DUP. Are they willing to take
responsibility away from British direct-rule ministers who know nothing
about local issues and who care even less?"
DUP 'UP FOR BUSINESS' - AHERN
The DUP said earlier this week it plans a consultation process on power
sharing with Sinn Fein but only if a case can be made that the IRA has
completed a transition from "paramilitarism and criminality".
It is expected that such consultation will include Protestant marching
orders, Protestant church leaders and community activists.
Addressing the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body (BIIPB) for the
first time, deputy leader Peter Robinson said yesterday that while
considerable progress has been made, it would be dangerous to suggest
the process has been completed.
"I cannot say if or when a judgment can be made that completion has
been reached but if and when a prima facie case can be made, we have
committed ourselves as a party to a consultation process within our
community to ensure unionism is satisfied completion has been reached
and that it is stable and enduring," he said.
"The prime minister pledged that people had to be satisfied that
IRA had completed its transition before an executive including Sinn
Fein could be formed. We pledge to use that yardstick to inform our
The DUP delegation at the meeting in Killarney included MPs Iris
Robinson, Nigel Dodds and Jeffrey Donaldson. However, the party has
not ended its boycott of participation in the body, which was
established in 1990 as a link between the London and Dublin
Later Dermot Ahern, who met the group privately after their
presentation, said he was very heartened. "The presentation was very
good. They made it quite clear they are up for business," he said,
although he wondered "if we are going to have to wait until the last
Provo shoplifter is caught".