17 November 2005

Orde: IRA has stopped punishment attacks

Belfast Telegraph

By Michael McHugh
17 November 2005

The IRA's punishment attacks have stopped ahead of next year's crucial Independent Monitoring Commission report, the Chief Constable has confirmed.

Sir Hugh Orde told a meeting of Westminster MPs that IRA punishment beatings and shootings had stopped.

He said this may be because it wants a clean bill of health ahead of January's IMC dossier, seen as crucial to bring about power-sharing.

Sir Hugh said the "encouraging" cessation of low-level violence was an indication of the power of the IRA high command over its members.

But he warned the select committee to be "realistic" about the likelihood of IRA criminality.

The IRA's decommissioning of arms last summer has been welcomed in many quarters but some unionists have expressed scepticism and demanded an end to all criminality before going back into government with Sinn Fein.

Sir Hugh added: "I think the word encouraging is probably right at the moment. One needs to be realistic about this. It is an illegal organisation.

"There are limits on how it can lawfully fund-raise, obviously, and we are keeping a very close eye on criminal activity and we will report fully and frankly to the IMC on everything we find in relation to all paramilitary groups in our next report."

The LVF's ceasefire, declared earlier this month, is being monitored by police and the Chief Constable said it was too early to assess the group's integrity.

"In terms of the LVF, it is too early to say, quite frankly.

"I said at the time we would wait and see, and I am still waiting to see what happens next.

"We have got no indications that disarmament of loyalist groups is imminent, so we have to wait and see."

Sir Hugh said dissident republicans were continuing to target economic targets and added that he expected more activity in the run up to Christmas.

He revealed that he was at Down Royal when the racing event had to be cancelled because of bomb hoaxes.

Sir Hugh said police officers north and south of the border were continuing to disrupt dissidents' operations.

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