SANCTIONS BODY STARTS WORK
A new commission to monitor paramilitary activity in the North
of Ireland for the purpose of punishing associated political
parties began work today.
The Independent Monitoring Commission was proposed by the
Irish and British governments last May as part of a Joint
Declaration on the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday
The governments introduced the sanctions body as a means of
placating unionists who had sought a device for the exclusion
of Sinn Fein from positions of influence in the power-sharing
administration at Stormont.
Today's move to set up the IMC has incensed republicans as it
marks a sharp departure from the Agreement ahead of a major
review of the peace deal. The body is widely seen as a means
of removing Sinn Fein from the democratic process following
its recent election success.
Nevertheless, the British government today claimed the body
would "boost confidence" in the Agreement.
The four-member body was welcomed when it came into operation
at lunchtime today by Britain's governor in Ireland, Paul
Murphy. He said: "It will play an important part in helping to
provide assurance to the people of Northern Ireland that the
necessary moves towards a genuinely peaceful and democratic
society and stable democratic government are real and
The local political institutions were suspended by the British
government fifteen months ago due to the resignation as First
Minister of Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble. An agreement
on IRA arms decommissioning to facilitate Trimble's return
suddenly collapsed in October, after the UUP leader refused to
accept a verification of the IRA's actions by the IICD
international decommissioning body.
The two governments subsequently reneged on their commitment
to implement the Joint Declaration.
Sinn Fein has described the IMC as running "totally contrary
to the terms of the Good Friday Agreement".
SF Assembly group leader Conor Murphy said it was "ironic"
that the only aspect of the Joint Declaration which the two
governments have advanced upon is the IMC.
"They have repeatedly failed to implement their commitments on
policing, demilitarisation, human rights and equality, all of
which are within the terms of the Agreement."
He said rhe powers of exclusion which were now being granted
to the British Secretary of State "contradict democratic
norms" and contravened the rights of the electorate.
"Indeed the British Secretary of State who has been given
these powers is himself in breach of the Agreement by virtue
of his refusal to lift the suspension of the political
"Successive British Secretaries of State have suspended the
Assembly on four occasions, at the behest of unionism. Nobody
should be in any doubt that the additional powers given to the
British Secretary of State will be used similarly.
Murphy pointed out that IMC reports would be based on
information supplied by securocrats -- elements of the British
security forces bitterly opposed to the cause of Irish
"The IMC will be no more than a smokescreen to validate
arbitrary acts of exclusion by the Secretary of State," he
The Commission members are John Grieve, the former head of the
anti-terrorist squad in London; Richard Kerr, a former deputy
director of the CIA in the US; retired Irish civil servant Mr
Joe Brosnan; and former Belfast Assembly Speaker Lord