Panel to oversee paramilitary disbandment unveiled

Lord John Alderdice.
Lord John Alderdice.

A panel to develop policy aimed at ending paramilitarism in Northern Ireland has been unveiled.

The establishment of the panel was a key component of the ‘Fresh Start Agreement’ formulated during political talks at Stormont last month.

Monica McWilliams.

Monica McWilliams.

The panel will consist of Lord Alderdice, Monica McWilliams and John McBurney.

Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness said: “I have repeatedly challenged armed grouos and criminality over many years and today we send out another strong, united message there is absolutely no place for armed groups or criminality in our society.”

First Minister Peter Robinson said the panel would “point the way in which we as a society could remove their scourge. There can be no place for paramilitarism in the new Northern Ireland.

In October, the government published an assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland.

The report, jointly drafted by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and MI5, was commissioned following the murder in August of Belfast man Kevin McGuigan Sr. A political crisis was prompted by the police’s belief that current IRA members were involved in the killing.

Among its findings was that the Provisional IRA’s structures, including its ruling ‘army council’ remains in existence.

It also found that UVF structures remain in place and there has been some evidence of recruitment while the UDA remained in existence but have limited control over members’ activities.

Lord Alderdice is currently the Liberal Democrats’ Lords spokesperson for Northern Ireland. He was leader of the Alliance Party from 1987-1998 and speaker of the assembly from 1998-2004. He was also a member of the Independent Monitoring Commission from 2004.

Monica McWilliams is professor of women’s studies at Ulster University. She was previously chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, a founding member of the Women’s Coalition and an MLA from 1998 to 2003.

John McBurney qualified as a solicitor in 1979 and has been in practice in Northern Ireland since that time. He has served on the Law Society Council and many of its committees.