NI: Paramilitaries continue to exist in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers MP
Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers

All of the main paramilitary groups operating in Northern Ireland during the Troubles continue to exist, according to a UK government-commissioned assessment.

However, none of them are “planning or conducting terrorist attacks”.

According to the report, the Provisional IRA’s ‘army council’ continues to exist, but in a “much reduced form”, with the group remaining “committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means”.

The report’s conclusions pave the way for breaking the political deadlock in Northern Ireland, which saw a spate of ministerial resignations after IRA members were implicated in a murder.

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which holds most seats in theNorthern Ireland Assembly, has now agreed to re-appoint ministers to the power-sharing executive.

This ends the immediate threat of Northern Ireland’s devolved government being suspended.

The assessment was jointly drafted by the PSNI and MI5 and reviewed by three independent figures, Lord Carlile QC, Rosalie Flanagan, and Stephen Shaw QC. It will be the subject of inter-party talks taking place in Stormont today.

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said the next step was to “get those vestiges of paramilitary activity removed”.

In a statement to the House of Commons yesterday, Northern Ireland secretary Theresa Villiers said: “Working with the main political parties and society more broadly we need a strategy to lead us to the point where these organisations no longer exist and their influence is removed from Northern Ireland once and for all.

“That is one of the two main goals of the talks that I’m chairing at Stormont and it is an outcome to which all parties say they are committed.

“The other goal is to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

“I believe that those talks represent the best chance of making progress on both these vital issues and the best chance of finding a way forward that helps build a brighter, more secure future for everyone in Northern Ireland.”

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