An independent monitoring commission-style group could be brought back to examine ongoing paramilitary activity in a bid to save Northern Ireland’s power-sharing government from collapsing, over the provisional IRA crisis.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan confirmed the option yesterday after crunch meetings in Dublin, Belfast, and London about the escalating saga.
He also said potential all-party talks with the North’s parties were on the table.
Speaking after a detailed two-hour meeting with Northern Ireland’s secretary of state Theresa Villiers, Mr Flanagan said he was “conscious of the fact time is of the essence” and underlying problems must be addressed.
He said that the return of “some form of independent monitoring” is being examined, although he insisted the details had not been discussed as negotiations were at a very early stage.
Sources last night confirmed the option involves the potential return of an IMC-style international group which will be asked to focus on the continued actions of both republican and loyalist paramilitary groups.
While the IMC stood down in 2011, both the British and Irish governments have put forward the prospect of its possible return.
The Fine Gael minister also said among the options discussed with Ms Villiers was the possibility of talks involving all five parties: Sinn Féin, SDLP, UUP, DUP, and the Alliance Party. Souces said the meetings may be chaired by Enda Kenny and British prime minister David Cameron.
David Cameron and Enda Kenny in 2014
The comments came after a day of tense discussions over the future of Stormont, and revelations of the alleged continuation of the provisional IRA, in some form, since decommissioning in 2005 — a claim Sinn Féin strenuously denies.
After the UUP’s decision to pull out of the power-sharing arrangement, Peter Robinson — leader of the DUP, unionism’s largest political party — met with Mr Cameron to emphasise the need for Sinn Féin to be penalised over the scandal.
However, Mr Robinson’s attempts to postpone the return of Stormont for one month to allow talks to take place in a calmer climate were defeated yesterday.
Mr Flanagan along with Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Tánaiste Joan Burton had, earlier yesterday, met Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan to discuss the Provisonal IRA’s exact standing on both sides of the border.
Speaking to reporters at a separate event after the meeting — which followed an initial discussion on Monday night — Mr Kenny said gardaí continued to monitor the situation “very closely”.
“I hope to be in touch with Mr Cameron before the weekend” to examine the issue further, he also said.
Asked about Sinn Féin’s claims it was rival politicians’ comments which had caused the crisis, and not the two murders or the alleged continuation of the provisional IRA, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the republican group “always have somebody to blame”.
She said Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald would have no right “to give lectures to people who have been involved in the democratic process”, saying bluntly: “How dare she.”
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