Derry dissident activity dominates watchdog report

Republican paramilitaries bombed Derry's Courthouse earlier this year.
Republican paramilitaries bombed Derry's Courthouse earlier this year.

Dissident republican paramilitary activity in Derry dominates the latest report from a paramilitary watchdog.

The new publication by the Independent Reporting Commission (IRC) sets out how the ongoing political vacuum, Brexit uncertainty and an increase in attacks has made ending paramilitarism “immeasurably more difficult”.

The second report from the IRC on progress towards ending paramilitary activity in NI comes after a year which saw a number of murders.

These include the killing of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in Derry in April.

The last 12 months also saw a number of attacks including the detonation by dissidents of a bomb at Derry’s Courthouse and a series of paramilitary style attacks across the city.

The IRC commissioners say that paramilitarism remains a stark reality in NI and continues to be a serious obstacle to peace and reconciliation.

The commissioners also reiterate their analysis from their first report last October that ending paramilitarism “can only be sustainably brought about by means of a Twin Track Approach which combines policing and justice responses alongside systemically tackling the serious socio-economic deprivation facing communities where the paramilitaries operate”.

The commissioners recommend that tackling paramilitarism be made a new dedicated outcome in the Programme for Government as the best way of achieving the whole-of-society approach they believe is needed.

They point to the need for neighbourhood policing to be enhanced and for urgent action to address the delay in cases coming before the courts.

The commissioners also highlight the need for increased asset recovery, recommending that an agency focusing solely on civil recovery of the proceeds of crime be established in Northern Ireland.

They further believe that the time has come for consideration to be given to a Transition Process for paramilitaries as a necessary next step.

To that end, the commissioners have called for a major public debate to begin, aware that their recommendations to end continuing paramilitary activity will need the support and confidence of the whole of society.