Confirmation that the IRA’s ruling Army Council has been disbanded will not necessarily pave the way for devolved policing and justice, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said tonight.
DUP Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson will need further assurances on accountability structures before the security force handover despite the Government’s call for a special report assessing whether the IRA has dismantled all its paramilitary structures.
Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward and his Irish counterpart asked for a response from the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) ceasefire watchdog by early September.
Mr Donaldson said: “We will obviously take a very keen interest in what the IMC has to report.
“For policing and justice devolution to occur there has to be sufficient confidence in the unionist community and one of those elements is removing the IRA from the stage.
“This isn’t the only factor, there will be others that we need to take into account as well like the structures being put in place for the devolution of policing and justice.”
Earlier this week Sinn Féin and the DUP said they had made progress on arrangements for the eventual handing down of policing and justice responsibilities.
These would include neither party nominating for the ministry, with the single post going to one of the smaller parties within or outside the Northern Ireland Assembly’s power-sharing executive.
The centralist Alliance Party, with no seats in the executive, and Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) ruled themselves out of the job while the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) believes it is the natural candidate under rules allocating ministries according to the number of Assembly seats won.
The IMC has been probing activities of all paramilitary groups in the North as the peace process progressed, reporting regularly.
However, hardline independent unionist MEP Jim Allister branded Mr Woodward’s call for a report a choreographed move to ease implementation of the DUP/Sinn Fein accord.
“I have no confidence that an answer other than that suiting the governments will be produced and that in contrast to its one-time healthy scepticism of convenient IMC findings, the DUP will play the game and seek refuge in this further process of sanitisation of the wicked IRA,” he added.
The IMC confirmed it had been asked by London and Dublin to give “further views and fuller assessment of the completion of the transformation of PIRA” than in their last bi-annual report in the spring.
It added: “The request is based on comments we made in our 18th report in May 2008 when we referred to relinquishing structures appropriate to a time of conflict as being the signal that a paramilitary group has emerged at the other end of the process of transformation.
“We also said in that report that in our assessment in practice this transformation was all but complete in the case of Provisional IRA (PIRA).”
A positive report from the IMC could help break the logjam between the political parties.
Mr Woodward said: “Enormous progress has been made by people across Northern Ireland to deal with outstanding issues from the troubles. However there are still vestiges of this time for which we need greater clarification.
“Therefore I have written with Dermot Ahern from the Government (Justice Minister) to the IMC asking for clarification of their last report.
“I have asked that they produce an ad hoc report, clarifying its assessment of the completion of the transformation of PIRA as set out in its 18th report.”