Government releases 14th IMC report

The 14th Independent Monitoring Commission report has been made public – full report here [pdf file], it had been delivered to government on March 1st – UTV report with the Secretary of State for Wales, etc’s comments hereThere some points to note from the report [pdf file], which focuses on the ongoing security normalisation programme. Primarily the security threat assessments and what activities that does, and doesn’t, cover.

3.4 It is important to repeat one point about our assessment of the paramilitary threat. We deal in this report with that threat only in so far as it bears directly on the implementation of the security normalisation programme. In broad terms, this means the actions of paramilitaries which require special security measures, for example military intervention or counter-terrorist legislation. It does not mean those activities of paramilitaries for which such measures are not necessary, even if those activities are serious. We believe that organised crime involving paramilitaries falls into this category. Such crime is different from terrorism or insurgency of the kind these measures are designed to combat and is a matter for the PSNI, AGS and other law enforcement agencies North and South. Accordingly, the assessment we make in the following paragraphs is necessarily narrower than it is in the reports we make on paramilitary activity as a whole under Article 4 of our remit.

3.5 In our recent report on paramilitary activity we gave our assessment of what the various groups were doing and of the threat they presented, particularly over the period 1 September to 30 November 2006. We also gave an assessment in our preceding such report, which had focused on the period 1 March to 31 August 20064. In the light of these assessments, and of the nature of our present task as we describe it in the preceding paragraph, the following are the key points about the paramilitary threat which seem to us to apply to security normalisation at the present time:

– We remain of the same view as we expressed six months ago about PIRA. We believe that it is firmly committed to the political path. It is not engaged in terrorist activity; nor in our view does it contemplate any return to it. Its operational structures have been disbanded and, in the absence of activity, the deterioration of terrorist capability continues. The organisation does not engage in acts of violence and has instructed its members not to do so. The leadership continues to encourage members to undertake political or
community activities. We have no reason to think that it will be diverted from continuing along this path and we note the decision of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis on 28 January 2007 to support policing and the criminal justice system and subsequent positive statements to that effect. We therefore conclude that terrorism and violence have been abandoned and that PIRA does not pose a threat relevant to security normalisation;

– Dissident republicans remain a threat, both to the security forces in particular and the community more widely. They remain committed to terrorism and continue to engage in terrorist activity. They continue to take steps to reinforce their capacity as paramilitary organisations. During the period covered by this report the Real Irish Republican Army (RIRA) has at times been more dangerously active than at the time of our previous security normalisation report six months ago, as has been the case with Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH), though at a much lower level. The Continuity Irish Republican Army (CIRA) too continued to be active, including by firing shots at a police station. Although we do not believe that any of the dissident republican organisations have the capacity to mount a sustained and serious terrorist campaign, and there have been law enforcement successes against them, they therefore pose a continuing threat;

– Although loyalist paramilitaries are actively engaged in violence and other forms of serious crime, and in our view have decided against early decommissioning, we do not believe that they pose a present threat to the security forces. There is evidence of senior figures seeking to lead the organisations away from crime although their impact so far has been limited and patchy. Their threat is therefore not at present a problem for security normalisation.

3.6 As we say above, we are also obliged by Article 5 to undertake our monitoring “in the light of … the British Government’s obligation to ensure the safety and security of the community as a whole”, and we have accordingly considered its assessment of that obligation. In our Ninth Report we published a letter from the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in which he set out his views on this point and in our Eleventh Report we included a further letter from him. We again asked him for his views so that we could take them into account in this report.

3.7 The Secretary of State has told us he has examined his two previous letters and that he believes his earlier assessment of the Government’s obligations still stands. He concludes that “the current normalisation programme remains appropriate and manageable”. In saying this he has taken into account the decision of the Sinn Féin Ard Fheis on 28 January to support policing and the criminal justice system, and he refers to practical indications of change in the period since then. He has also taken into account the threat from dissident republicans and the actions of loyalists. We are aware from the Secretary of State’s earlier communications on this matter that he considers the Government’s over-riding priority to be the safety and security of the people of Northern Ireland; that the continuation of the normalisation programme depends on the continued existence of what the Joint Declaration called an enabling environment; and that if he felt this environment no longer existed he would halt the programme and reinstate any measures which the new circumstances might require. [added emphasis]