New body should be set up to coax terrorists into giving up power, says major new report

A call has been made to set up a new government-backed body aimed at coaxing terrorists into giving up their power.

The report from the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) calls for the Irish government to help design the organisation, alongside the UK government and the devolved regime at Stormont.

Among the ideas which the report raises is the notion of removing paramilitary groups from the government’s register of banned organisations – a suggestion which has previously proved contentious.

The IRC was set up in 2017 by the NI, Dublin, and London governments. This is its fourth report to date.

The IRC’s latest report calls for “a process of engagement with the paramilitary groups to bring about group transition and, ultimately, disbandment”.

However, 11 years after the last major paramilitary groups were supposed to have decommissioned (the UDA and INLA, in 2010), some politicians feel enough has already been done to persuade members to leave their pasts behind – and that the only remedy left for stubborn followers is to send them to jail.

As the report puts it: “Some believe that a process of engagement to bring about group transition is no longer appropriate or feasible, and that disbandment is a matter purely for the police and justice systems – [but] our analysis leads us to a different view”.

It goes on say: “We envision that the overall process would be overseen by a formal body established for that purpose by the two governments, in consultation with the Executive (along the lines, for instance, of the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains).”

It then lists the following “milestones” which paramilitary groups would agree to under the watch of such a body:

>> Ending recruitment

>> Giving up “paramilitary structures and activity”

>> Ceasing “mobilisation of members”

>> “Ceasing to exercise coercive power and control in communities” (including no more punishment-type attacks or threats)

>> Ending of all paramilitary style attacks and all other forms of violence, threat of

>> The disposal of any remaining guns and equipment

>> Allowing members of the groups “to exit from paramilitarism without cost or consequence”

>> And “publicly supporting the PSNI and criminal justice system”.

The report also talks of “reintegration” for paramilitaries, and states that politicians should consider “deproscription of the paramilitary organisations (ie, removing them from the list of prohibited terrorist groups”.

The report’s authors say they are “not taking a view on its merits one way or another” but is “merely pointing out again” that it is an option.

In 2017, UVF sub-group Red and Commando applied to be de-proscribed – a move which was met by opposition from many Troubles victims.

The IRC has four members.

They are John McBurney (a solicitor) and Monica McWilliams (an academic and founder of the Women’s Coalition), nominated by the Northern Ireland Executive), Tim O’Connor (an Irish diplomat) nominated by the Irish Government, and Mitchell B. Reiss, an ambassador, nominated by the UK Government.

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