The Guardian leader today summed up the 12th IMC report better than most “Yesterday’s ground-breaking report could not have been more helpful.” Indeed, given what the BBC’s Mark Devenport describes as the “puffing” the report received – before being published – it is, as I suggested yesterday, worthwhile looking at some of the report more closely… in particular those grey areasFor all the good news it contains, and no-one would deny that in three years there have been changes in almost every one of the paramilitary and criminal groups – to a greater or lesser degree – there are a number of glaring gaps in the knowledge accrued by the IMC since its previous reports.
There’s the ‘command and control structures” of the PIRA which the IMC previously declared is “an important element in maintaining the organisation on its chosen path.”
– We remain of the firm view that PIRA is committed to following a political path. It is not engaged in terrorist activity, by which we mean undertaking attacks, planning or reconnoitring them, or developing a terrorist capability by, for example, procuring weapons or training members. The leadership is opposed to the use of violence in community control, has taken a stance against criminality and disorder amongst the membership, and has been engaged in successful dialogue to prevent violence during the 2006 parades season. Senior members are taking on roles in Sinn Féin and are encouraging other members to do the same or to engage in community work. The fact that PIRA retains a command and control structure does not in our view detract from this. Indeed, this structure is an important element in maintaining the organisation on its chosen path.
That’s from September.. and it’s the same assessment as that contained in the 12th report yesterday which formed the basis of Tony Blair’s, and Peter Hain’s, apparently new, breathless endorsement – “IRA’s campaign is over”
The IMC’s assessment of the need for a ‘command and control structure’ was criticised at the time, including here on Slugger. This time however, the IMC avoided using the phrase “command and control structure”, despite the fact that it is only a month since their previous report, preferring instead to talk about
such structures as remain are largely concerned with preserving the cohesion of the organisation and serving the wider purpose of the republican movement as a whole in a period of major change of strategy and direction.
ANyway, as I said, the interesting areas are those where the IMC’s knowledge fails them.
Firstly on the issue of the murder of Denis Donaldson.. the IMC will not be drawn into even a suggestion of who might have been responsible.. not even the likeliest culprits
3.7 In our previous report we mentioned the murder of Denis Donaldson in County Donegal on 4 April 2006. We said we were not able to attribute responsibility for the murder and would continue to monitor the situation. There has been no change in this situation to
Nor an indication that anything might have turned up at all through their monitoring.
Perhaps more importantly, the previously highlighted issue of “discreetly laundered assets”.
For a report that clears the organisation of criminal activity, or rather the leadership of that organisation of endorsing any such activity, the IMC is, perhaps, remarkably uninterested in this area
How the organisation itself is handling the question of previously illegally obtained funds is not entirely clear to us.
Given that would be of direct concern in any assessment on a commitment to law and order, a phrase Sinn Féin statement writers have recently added to their lexicon, and a topic that will likely dominate the forthcoming discussions it seems a little lax, to say the least.
Indeed, the entire debate has long since moved on from any terrorist threat, it’s criminality and the ‘good leadership, bad members’ line, from this and previous reports, that concern has been centred on for some time. And it’s a concern that, while accepting the broad thrust of the IMC report on terrorist activity, has been voiced today by the PSNI chief constable Hugh Orde at the Policing Board
“I have no evidence to suggest they (Provisional IRA) have any intention of going back to an armed struggle in any way shape or form in terms of activities,” he said.
“The grey area, as ever, will be activities undertaken by people who are members of the Provisional IRA which we would class as criminal.
“And the question as always is, was that for the organisation or was that for the individual? But in broad terms I accept what the IMC was saying.”
The naturally sceptical would point out that a commitment to policing would require certain actions to be taken, through the criminal justice system, of any individuals found to be involved in the exploitation of any discreetly laundered assets.. or even not so discreet..