A party linked to the loyalist paramilitary group the Ulster Volunteer Force is to meet the North's Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), it was revealed today.
The Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) took the decision at a meeting of its executive last night.
Although PUP leader David Ervine will not take part in any discussions with the four-member commission, the party is expected to arrange discussions soon.
PUP Policing Board member Dawn Purvis said: “A decision was taken last night for the party to engage with the IMC.
“The party feels it is important to reflect the positive developments that are taking place within loyalism.”
The Progressive Unionists have had a difficult relationship with the IMC, which is expected to publish tomorrow its latest report on the scaling down of security in the North by the British government.
The commission also monitors paramilitary ceasefires and has in the past recommended financial sanctions against the PUP and also Sinn Féin because of UVF and Provisional IRA activity.
The IMC is made up of former Assembly Speaker Lord Alderdice, retired Irish civil servant Joe Brosnan, former Metropolitan Police anti-terrorist chief John Grieve and ex-CIA deputy director Richard Kerr.
Last night’s decision by the PUP came amid mounting speculation that the Ulster Volunteer Force will also re-engage with General John de Chastelain’s disarmament commission.
The UVF has also engaged in an internal consultation on its future in the wake of the IRA’s declaration 14 months ago that its armed campaign was over.
The organisation is believed to be monitoring the outcome of the political talks this autumn before making public what its future plans will be.
PUP leader Mr Ervine is the party’s only Assembly member and, controversially, in May he forced an alliance with the Ulster Unionists which saw him admitted into their group at Stormont.
The move could ensure that there will be a majority of unionist ministers if a power-sharing government is formed in the North during the lifetime of this Assembly.
Ulster Unionist leader Reg Empey also said it was part of his efforts along with senior loyalists to secure an end to paramilitary and criminal activity.
However, it was criticised by the rival Democratic Unionists, the cross-community Alliance Party and the SDLP.