Crisis talks for the North’s politicians

The North’s politicians have been called into talks next week to resolve the crisis over IRA activity.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron ordered negotiations to break the deadlock at Stormont as security chiefs said they would support an independent assessment of paramilitary groups.

Enda Kenny said: “We [he and David Cameron] both agreed that immediate steps needed to be taken to address the key critical issues which threaten the stability of the devolved institutions.”

Crisis talks for the North’s politicians

Enda Kenny

He said the talks should be “short, focused, and intensive” and deal with full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement as well as the “trust and confidence issues arising from the legacy of paramilitarism”.

“If the sustainability of the devolved institutions is to be ensured, it is absolutely critical that these talks are advanced with a sense of urgency and that all of the parties constructively seize this opportunity,” he said.

The talks are planned for next week at Stormont.

The move came after the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) offered a new assessment of Provisional IRA activity stating that aspects of the terror organisation have gone away, its active service units do not exist any more, and what remains fulfils a radically different purpose than during the Troubles.

The breakdown in relations at Stormont reached a new low after the killing of a former IRA father of nine Kevin McGuigan, allegedly by former terror associates.

Crisis talks for the North’s politicians

Kevin McGuigan

That murder earlier this summer caused political uproar after PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said the IRA — which was supposed to have gone away a decade ago — still exists for peaceful purposes and the shooting was carried out by individual PIRA members but not sanctioned at a senior level.

The police chief said: “The monitoring of paramilitary groups as conducted, for example, by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) until 2011, was part of a political agreement.

“The police service would be supportive of any political intervention to create some form of independent assessment process in the future.”

Mr Hamilton said it would be a political decision whether to set up another body like the IMC.


PSNI chief constable George Hamilton 

He added: “We don’t actually have a statutory responsibility to monitor and report to political parties on the status of paramilitary groups.

“If there is a decision taken politically that there would be some sort of monitoring commission introduced clearly it would fill that gap.” Mr Hamilton said any monitoring should include loyalist groups like the Ulster Volunteer Force and Ulster Defence Association.

Senior police briefed politicians and independent members of the Policing Board about the Provisional IRA yesterday in Belfast.

Assistant chief constable Will Kerr said: “At the operational tier, active service units, we don’t believe that tier exists any more. A senior tier exists for a radically different purpose than 20 years ago.” He said there was no terrorist command and the IRA was not engaged in terrorism.

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