IMC report: IRA committed to peace
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report into paramilitary activity in the North has said that the IRA is committed to "following a peaceful path" and has "expended considerable energy to refocus the movement on its objective". The tenth IMC report is the most positive to date.
It states that the IRA has wound down its intelligence gathering operations and says that over the past three months there has been no recruitment, training or targeting on behalf of the IRA. "There has now been a substantial erosion in the PIRA's capacity to return to a military campaign without a significant period of build-up, which in any event we do not believe they have any intentions of doing," the report states.
The IMC report said that loyalist groups were still engaged in violence and criminal activity. The report also accuses individual IRA members of engaging in criminality and says that individual IRA units retained weapons in defiance of the leadership's wishes. The claim that some IRA weapons were still in circulation was first made by the IMC in February. This was at odds with both the Garda Síochána and the international decommissioning body, which oversaw the destruction of IRA weapons last September.
February's IMC report was highly critical of the IRA and was used by unionists as a reason for not sharing power with Sinn Féin. This report is much more positive and paves the way for political progress. The next IMC report is due out in November, just days before the deadline set by both governments for power-sharing. Responding to the report, Peter Hain said that politicians could no longer use the IRA as an excuse not to engage in political progress.
"I don't think that any politician in Northern Ireland can use the excuse for much longer that the IRA poses a terrorist threat or that it's organised some central criminal conspiracy as a reason not to join in a power-sharing government over the coming period," he said.
Unionists have sought to play down the significance of the report. DUP MP, Nigel Dodds, said: "people on the ground will judge for themselves the truth of this." UUP leader Reg Empey called for the Northern Bank robbery money to be handed back.
The legitimacy of the IMC is still questioned by many, as it relies almost exclusively on Special Branch and MI5 files to gather intelligence on paramilitary activity. That has led to accusations that the IMC is a "puppet body" which is manipulated to suit the political objectives of the British government.