9th IMC report published

The Ninth Independent Monitoring Commission report has been published online here – as the accompanying press release notes, “This report gives an assessment of progress in the implementation of the British Government’s normalisation programme which was published on 1 August 2005 by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The period covered in this Report is from 1 August 2005 to 31 January 2006.”However the report also states –

3.9 So far as security normalisation is concerned, we draw the following general conclusions:

– There remains a certain level of threat to the lives and safety of members of the security forces, though it bears little relation to the level of threat that the full abnormal security arrangements were originally designed to meet. The threat is sharpest from the dissident republicans, and in this respect is mainly in certain parts of Northern Ireland, though dissident attacks elsewhere cannot be ruled out. In the context of rioting however, the threat to the security forces could erupt suddenly and has done so; it has mostly come from loyalists;

– There remains a risk of significant and unpredictable public disorder; such disorder could lead to sudden and extreme violence. It can impose very heavy demands on the police, to the point where they require reinforcement;

While PIRA’s control of local communities has loosened, on the republican side generally a level of control still continues. Loyalist groups have not dropped their control. Such control can hinder the normal operation of the criminal justice system. This is relevant to the question of counter-terrorist legislation and the use of non-jury courts;[emphasis added]

– The situation can change very fast.

And the report concludes –

7. CONCLUSIONS

7.1 We set out below our general conclusions in the light of our remit (which we described in Section 2), our approach to the report and our assessment of the threat (Section 3) and the material we have presented on the implementation of the security normalisation programme in Sections 4, 5 and 6.

7.2 The two aspects are to:

– Monitor whether the commitments in the security normalisation programme are being fully implemented; and,

– To do so in the light of our own assessment of the paramilitary threat and of the British Government’s obligation to ensure the safety and security of the community as a whole.

7.3 We are satisfied that the commitments in the first six months of the programme covered by this report have been met. This is because of:

– The removal or demolition of the specified towers and observation posts (paragraph 4.7);

– The closure of Forkhill Army Base (paragraph 4.10);

– The continuation of the review of the police estate as agreed by the Policing Board and in consultation with PSNI, and because it contains within it work to defortify some 24 police stations (paragraphs 6.7-6.9).

These are the only commitments in the programme that have to be implemented over the period 1 August 2005 – 31 January 2006.

7.4 We also understand that the plan for the phased reduction of troops to peacetime levels will be published as the programme requires by the end of March 2006 (paragraph 4.16). We will address this in our next report in 6 months time.

7.5 There are other signs of progress towards the normalisation of security. We have been struck by examples of how the PSNI is able to operate in an increasingly normal way, and how in many places it is receiving a very different and far more positive response from the public. We note too how officers in the PSNI are welcoming this and are in their turn looking imaginatively for ways in which it can be encouraged, thus themselves fostering normality. In addition we also note that during these six months progress has been made towards the normalisation of security in other ways more precisely related to our remit to monitor the programme:

– A reduction in the number of troops by nearly 900 to just over 9,200, 81⁄2% although no reduction is actually required at this stage (paragraphs 4.14 and 4.16);

– The withdrawal of the military from 5 of the 10 joint PSNI/Army bases (paragraph 4.10);

– The closure of 2 military bases, bringing the total to 22 (paragraph 4.13);

– A reduction in the flying hours of British Army helicopters by 28% (paragraph 4.18);

– The enactment of the Terrorism (Northern Ireland) Act 2006 in February 2006. Under the Act the counter-terrorist legislation particular to Northern Ireland will cease to have effect by the end of the normalisation programme in July 2007 unless it is specifically renewed by the British Parliament (paragraphs 5.2 and 5.12).

7.6 We have considered the programme in the light of our assessment of the paramilitary threat (paragraphs 3.6-3.7) and of the British Government’s obligation to maintain the safety and security of the community as a whole (paragraphs 3.4-3.5). We recognise that the programme as a whole represents a very major change, and that it is a complicated process which will take time to implement in an orderly and sensible fashion. We conclude that the measures required by the programme at this stage are entirely proportionate. We also consider that the measures are consistent with the obligation of the British Government, noting at the same time that the Government takes continuing account of the security threat, that it considers public safety to be its first and over-riding priority, and that it will halt the programme and reinstate security measures if at any time the circumstances make that necessary. We see no grounds for suggesting that the programme should be either slowed down or accelerated.

7.7 The requirement to continue the review of the police estate is different from other measures at this stage of the programme in that it involves a process rather than the delivery of specific objectives. We believe that this process will ensure a proper account continues to be taken of the association between security normalisation and investment in the police estate for other purposes. We note also the continuing role of the PSNI and the Policing Board in the management of the programme and of the Oversight Commissioner in assessment of changes to the estate in the context of the recommendations of the Patten Report as a whole.22

7.8 As regards the counter-terrorist legislation particular to Northern Ireland, we note that the statutory framework will remain in place until the end of the normalisation programme. It thus falls outside both the first and second periods of the programme. We will in due course look at the British Government’s plans for the repeal of Part VII. We will also be interested in the outcome of the further work the Government
is doing on whether special provisions are needed to secure effective trials in circumstances where the intimidation of jurors by paramilitaries might be a factor, and also on what powers might be needed for the army to give specialist support to the police, such as public order and explosives disposal.

7.9 We will present a further report in six months time. This will review the programme at its mid point, which falls four months into the second, twelve month-long, period of the three into which it is divided.

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  • Seano

    Given the fact that the IMC is “suspect” and “bias” within the nationalist and republican communities, one would wonder why this report is really being displayed today. Though they give the IRA a decent grade, they conveniently add in the activities of dissident groups in the same sentence.

    Gee, I wonder why they would do this?

  • Jill Robinson

    “Gee, I wonder why they would do this?”

    Because all thugs are gray at night?

  • Jill Robinson

    Sorry, that last post was flippant.

    All with all, and taking into account that the IMC is by its very nature anti-republican, I think it’s positive. Nobody can say that no progress has been made since last time.

  • observer

    just repeats what we all know: They havent gone away

  • Seano

    Observer

    “just repeats what we all know: They havent gone away.”

    But the IRA have gone away. The IMC report is almost suggesting that, as long as the floundering dissident groups remain, then in general, there is an IRA threat.

    The IMC needs to be completley specific in distinguishing the IRA from other dissident groups.

  • Pete Baker

    “The IMC needs to be completley specific in distinguishing the IRA from other dissident groups.”

    Seano, You must have missed the fact that the IMC reports always refer to PIRA, CIRA, Real IRA, whatever, then.

  • circles

    Seems like only the IMC can learn a new tune observer.
    To be honest, its almost irrelevant to be banging on about the IRA so much these days. Shouldn’t we really be getting on the Loyalist Paramilitaires backs without the usual “haven’t gone away ye know” guff?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Always enough to maintain the line that there will be a need for a few more IMC reports and thus protectimng their own employment future.

    Yet again talking up the threat from dissident republicans thus justifying the continuing towers etc in areas like Sth Armagh.

    Just watched Balderdice on UTV claiming that these reports come out with little regard to the current political situation pertaining at the time, mmm.

    Once again he was less than honest when he stated that their job was to inform the public in an open and frank manner. They are not open at all.

  • ingrammartin

    Pat

    Quote”Always enough to maintain the line that there will be a need for a few more IMC reports and thus protectimng their own employment future.”Unquote

    It reminds me of the IRA leadership just another house or a boat, lets keep this going for the pension top up.

    Marty

  • ghoulish humour

    sf’s choice of spokesperson (spooksperson?) on this matter would seem to underline the point regarding how the ira is no longer a threat to the security forces or establishment, if the rumours are true. quite funny when you think of it in that light.

  • observer

    firstly i didnt actually mention the ira

    but the report still makes clear the provos are still in business

    The loyalists should be hammered into the ground, as should be the republicans

  • Richard James

    “Yet again talking up the threat from dissident republicans thus justifying the continuing towers etc in areas like Sth Armagh.”

    South Armaghs traditionally high murder rates justifies watchtowers. And while dissident Republicans haven’t been as successful as their Provo counterparts at the murder game we don’t know if this is down to them being incompetant or due to security measures in place. That’s the problem with successful security measures, when they are working some people will claim that is why they aren’t needed at all.

  • Richard James

    Don’t know why the last post as Seano2 instead of Richard James. Sorry about that.

  • DK

    Pat: “Yet again talking up the threat from dissident republicans thus justifying the continuing towers etc in areas like Sth Armagh.”

    Pat – did you stop reading at the bit of the report that then said about troop levels lowering, helicopter flights decreasing, closure of military bases?

    DK

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    DK,

    I prefer to actually listen to the people on the ground and view things with my own eyes. There are still watch towers and a heavy military presence in that area.
    Go and see the area for yourself.

  • Reader

    Pat McLarnon: I prefer to actually listen to the people on the ground and view things with my own eyes.
    But the IMC goes one better than that, and counts and measures. Better to have an objective way of judging these things rather than relying on the sensation of percieved offence – otherwise no progress will ever be acknowledged, even when the army is down to garrison levels.
    (Reader)

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    (Reader)

    Sorry but the IMC prints what & when it is told to do so. Like I say I drive down that part of the country quite often and see the towers that are blighting the landscape and I also see the British Army patrols.

  • Reader

    Pat McLarnon: Sorry but the IMC prints what & when it is told to do so. Like I say I drive down that part of the country quite often …
    Well, it looks like the republican movement is onto a propaganda triumph here. All you need to do is say how many towers there were 5 years ago in NI, and how many there are now, and show there is no difference. But I won’t be holding my breath…
    (Reader)

  • RmcC

    “a propaganda triumph”????

    This discussion is becoming more and more absurd. It’s not like we’re discussing North Korea. Surely it’s very simple to verify how many towers were there and how many are gone.

    I don’t see how that can be equated with propaganda.

    What about using Google World to check? 🙂