26 April 2006

Peace boost as IRA gets clean bill of health

Irish Independent

THE IRA has been given its cleanest bill of health yet on paramilitary violence and criminality by the International Monitoring Commission (IMC).

The four-member body says in its latest report, to be published today, that it is not aware of any "terrorist, paramilitary or violent activity" which has been sanctioned by the Provisional leadership.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair will hail the report this morning as a significant fillip for their hopes of restoring the Northern institutions after almost four years.

But the document does not come to conclusions on the murder in Donegal last month of self-confessed British spy and former top Sinn Fein official Denis Donaldson or the big vodka heist in Dunshaughlin.

The period covered by the report did not include those two incidents.

So a final green light will have to await the next report.

That is expected in October, just weeks before the November 24 deadline set by the two governments.

Only a full and final clean sheet then would entice in the DUP into major talks with Sinn Fein on the question of power sharing and restoring the Northern Assembly, now suspended for almost four years. But a Government spokeswoman said last night that today's report - the tenth from the IMC for the period from September 1 to February 28 - was "positive" and being seen as a major boost for the peace process.

The hope in both governments is that it will contribute significantly to the improved political climate in the North at present.

The atmosphere of hope was improved greatly by the decision of DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson and other senior party members to end the 16-year boycott of the British-Irish InterParliamentary Body and attend its session in Killarney.

The report says it remains "our clear view that the Provisional IRA leadership has committed itself to following a peaceful path".

It adds that the leadership "has expended considerable effort to re-focus the movement in support of its objective".

The overall assessment the IMC gives is of a complete absence of terrorist or activity involving violence.

"We are not aware of current, terrorist, paramilitary or violent activity sanctioned by the leadership."

"We have had no indication in the last three months of of training, engineering activity, recent recruitment or targeting for the purposes of attack."

The report also notes a "substantial erosion in the Provisional IRA's capacity to return to a military campaign without a significant period of build-up, which in any event we do not believe that they have any intention of doing".

Gene McKenna

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