First up, Sinn Fein. Discuss. Previously: IMC on use of Violence/Exiling, key points
5.1 Article 4 of the International Agreement requires us to assess whether the leadership of paramilitary groups is directing illegal activities or seeking to prevent them.
5.2 We continue to apply to those in positions of leadership in political parties associated with paramilitary groups the standards we first set out in our Fifth Report in May 2005, and which we reiterated in our last report three months ago. We believe that they should articulate their opposition to all forms of illegality; should exert their influence against members of paramilitary groups who have not given up crime; and should give clear support to the criminal justice system.
5.3 There are two political parties to whom these standards are particularly relevant – Sinn Féin and the Progressive Unionist Party. They also apply to the Ulster Political Research Group.
5.4 In the case of Sinn Féin, we referred in our last report to the PIRA statement of 28 July 2005 and to the subsequent decommissioning of weapons reported by the IICD on 26 September. We said that these events indicated that very major progress had been made in the direction that the President of Sinn Féin, Gerry Adams, had spelt out in his statement of April that year.
5.5 We went on to say that although the initial signs were encouraging we felt it was too early then to draw firm conclusions about changes in the overall behaviour of PIRA. This was because five of the six months under review in that report preceded the July statement. Accordingly, we decided that we should not make any comment at that stage on the recommendation we had made in our Fourth Report in February 2005 that the Secretary of State should consider exercising the powers he had to take financial measures in respect of Sinn Féin in the Assembly. Nor did we then pursue the separate comment we had also made in our Fourth Report, namely that people had suggested to us that Sinn Féin should not continue to receive public funds from other sources if they were denied them in the context of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
5.6 The Secretary of State, having considered financial measures in line with our recommendation last February, had then decided that he should remove block financial assistance from Sinn Féin in the Assembly for the maximum period allowed under the legislation, namely twelve months. This took effect on 29 April 2005. The Secretary of State also decided to pursue our separate comment on other sources of funding and on 10 March 2005 invited the House of Commons to suspend the allowances of Sinn Féin Members of the UK Parliament for twelve months. The House of Commons agreed to his proposal, which took effect on 1 April.
5.7 On 19 October 2005, the day the British and Irish Governments published our last report, the Secretary of State announced that he had decided to restore Sinn Féin’s Assembly allowances with effect from 1 November and that he would in due course recommend to the House of Commons that it lift the suspension of the allowances of Sinn Féin MPs. This he did on 26 January 2006 and the House of Commons is due to debate it on 8 February.
5.8 In the circumstances we have described in this report we do not believe that financial measures against Sinn Féin of the kind referred to above should continue.
Next: IMC on Leadership, continued