The Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) starts work

 A PANEL established to monitor efforts to stamp out paramilitaries has begun its work. The Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) is a key element of a strategy included in the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement to end the criminal activities of the so-called Troubles-era gangsters. 

Photo credits: Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA
From left: John McBurney, Monica McWilliams, Tim O’Connor and Mitchell Reiss at the launch.

It will report annually on progress to the London and Dublin governments. The four IRC members are former us special envoy to the North of Ireland Mitchell Reiss, ex-human rights commissioner and political leader Monica McWilliams, solicitor John McBurney and former Irish diplomat Tim O’Connor. Having already met informally a number of times before the commission was fully up and running, the members are now starting a round of meetings with those involved in efforts to end paramilitarism.

Earlier this week, police revealed that its intensified crackdown on paramilitaries had produced nearly 100 arrests. A total of 66 were charged or reported to prosecutors, chief constable George Hamilton said. A Paramilitary Crime Taskforce has been established to combat all forms of criminality linked to paramilitarism, including paramilitary style attacks, extortion, intimidation, drug dealing and money laundering. The specialist police team is working with the support of the National Crime Agency and Revenue and Customs.

Mr Reiss said he was greatful for the opportunity to again play a role in creating a “safe and prosperous North of Ireland”. ” I hope the commission’s initiatives will help to bring about the continued transformation envisioned by the British and Irish governments, the local political parties and the citizens of the North of Ireland, ” he said. Mr McBurney said: “I look forward to working with Ireland’seagues on this essential part of the process of delivering the North of Ireland’s society into a peaceful future. “While there have been challenges in recent times, the overall direction of travel in the North of Ireland remains positive, and the IRC aims to make a positive contribution.” Ms McWilliams said: “The IRC will focus on promoting and supporting practical and effective measures to help end the coercive control of paramilitaries and to bring about a more peaceful society. “We have embarked on a long term initiative with the full backing of both governments, local organizations and communities and we look forward to producing our first report in the coming months.” Mr O’Connor said: “The outworking of the Fresh Start Agreement, including the establishment of the IRC places the ending of paramilitarism in a comprehensive policy framework for the first time. “This is important in the long term development of society on the island of Ireland, as it makes the ending of paramilitarism the official policy of both governments and the North of Ireland Executive. “I believe that the IRC can make a significant contribution to that journey and look forward to playing my part, along with my fellow commissioners, in its important work.”

With many thanks to: David Young, The Irish News for the original story. 


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I.R.C. A paramilitary monitoring group told to ‘safeguard national security’ but who’s safeguarding us from the Tory government?

james Brokenshire has warned a new peace process watchdog to safeguard national security information. The Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) was established by the British and Irish governments to monitor activity by paramilitaries.

James Brokenshire Secretary of State for the North of Ireland.

It was agreed following Stormont talks involving the five main parties amid concern about continued activity by organized groups. Mr Brokenshire, pictured above, said: “In order to fulfil its objective, and in light of the functions and the range of bodies the commission will consult in the course of its work, it is likely that the commission will receive information, which could, if disclosed, be prejudicial to the national security interests of the U.K.

” This guidance therefore draws together the principles and arrangements for managing national security sensitive information so as to ensure that the commission can carry out its responsibilities effectively and that the national security interests are also properly protected.” Disclosure of some sensitive information could risk the life or safety of a person, Mr Brokenshire added, and the commission had a duty to ensure its proper protection. He wrote to the body earlier in the summer but there is no suggestion his intervention was anything other than routine. It was agreed in 2015 between the British and Irish governments and the North of Ireland parties after a number of high-profile republican killings, but the time required to pass enabling laws in both countries meant it was only recently given a formal mandate. The final piece of legislation was signed into law in July.

Attacks by dissident republicans targeting members of the so-called security forces remain “highly likely”, the authorities said, while unionists have expressed unease about the continued existence of the Provisional IRA. Two years ago Chief Constable George Hamilton said PIRA’s ruling army council still exists but was not engaged in terrorism. It followed the murder of ex-IRA man Kevin McGuigan snr in Belfast last year. Subsequent political talks to repair power-sharing at Stormont focused on tackling paramiltarism. The outcome was a new international body, created by the British and Irish governments under the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement. The four IRC members will be former US special envoy to the North of Ireland Mitchell Reiss, ex-human rights commissioner and political leader Monica McWilliams, solicitor John McBurney and former Irish diplomat Tim O’Connor. The commissioners have met several times to carry out preparatory work in advance of the commission being formally established. Irish legislation enabling the formation of the commission was signed into law by President Michael D Higgins late in July. Corresponding UK legislation was passed more than a year earlier.

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