23 April 2006

IMC set to praise IRA 'progress'

Sunday Times

Liam Clarke
April 23, 2006

THE latest report of the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) on Wednesday is not expected to upset this week’s round of negotiations, according to Irish government sources. The report will not give the IRA a completely clean bill of health, but will state that steady progress is being made.

It will confirm that the IRA is no longer recruiting or preparing for a return to violence. It is understood that the IRA is continuing to gather intelligence on political and economic matters and does not pose a threat to the security forces. The organisation has also scaled back some of its criminal enterprises.

The 10th report from the IMC will cover from the beginning of September 2005 to the end of February 2006, and so will make no reference to the murder of Denis Donaldson, the former senior Sinn Fein official and British agent who was gunned down at his holiday home in Donegal earlier this month. Investigations into Donaldson’s death continue.

Neither will the report cover a recent robbery involving a truck hijacking. One of the three men later charged was a republican.

Both incidents will be covered in the next IMC report, at the end of October. The IMC’s conclusions, particularly on the death of Donaldson, will be crucial in determining the re-establishment of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive by the November 24 deadline.

The IMC exists to monitor paramilitary activity and security normalisation. Previous reports have covered security force normalisation measures.

The IMC has been criticised by Sinn Fein and the Progressive Unionists, the political wing of the Ulster Volunteer Force, but it is seen as credible by mainstream unionists, the SDLP and the Alliance party.

If the Northern Ireland executive gets up and running, the IMC may be given the enhanced role of monitoring compliance of parties to the commitments they have made to operate the political structures and pursue peaceful means.

Dick Kerr, a former CIA official who is one of the IMC’s four members, hinted at this earlier this month. He said that two of the commissioners, Lord Alderdice and John Grieve (a former deputy assistant commissioner in London’s Metropolitan police), would have a role in the assembly. Kerr said, of the assembly and the commission, “it seems they will impact on each other. Two of our four commissioners have roles as ombudsmen, if you will, to follow up accusations against other parties.”

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