Parties which want to be part of the government of Northern Ireland must be “clean” of any connections with paramilitary activity, British Prime Minister Tony Blair insisted today.
Mr Blair told his monthly press conference that the Independent Monitoring Commission, whose first report earlier this week called for financial penalties against republican and loyalist politicians linked to active terror groups, would play a significant role in the peace process from now on.
Mr Blair said: “The question is, is this IMC process, the idea of an independent commission that monitors the obligations of the parties – including those of the Governments, incidentally – is this going to play now a central role in the future of the peace process in Northern Ireland?
“The answer is yes, it is going to play a central role, and it is going to play a central role because people in Northern Ireland and indeed in the Republic of Ireland can see the full extent of paramilitary activity and can recognise therefore the justice of the demand…that anybody who wants to be a part of the government of Northern Ireland has to be clean from any association with paramilitary activity of whatever sort.”
Mr Blair continued: “I hope as soon as possible we will get back into intensive negotiations.
“Because the only way we are going to deal with this is to make sure that people face up to the basic issue, which is that we have everything agreed in Northern Ireland and we just need one thing to come into place – that is the acceptance by everybody that we can no longer tolerate any level of paramilitary activity.
“That paramilitary activity, terrorism – whether it is so-called loyalist or republican – is what is holding the peace process back in Northern Ireland.”