Publication of Fifth Report of the Independent Reporting Commission
The Fifth Report sets out the Commission’s assessment of progress to date on the implementation of the provisions of the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement that are designed to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality, with the aim of bringing an end to paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.
While acknowledging that paramilitarism is not on the same scale as it was during the Troubles, the IRC report that paramilitary groups remain active and continue to exert coercive control in some communities. The IRC have therefore not altered their view that the risks posed to society by the continuing existence of paramilitary groups and structures mean that paramilitarism remains a clear and present danger in and for Northern Ireland.
The Commission remains committed to the twin track approach to tackling paramilitarism. That is a policing and justice response, side by side with a comprehensive addressing of the systemic, socio-economic issues facing communities where the paramilitaries operate. The Commission have identified the need for an additional dimension to tackle paramilitarism, namely the undertaking of a process of engagement with the paramilitary groups themselves, aimed at group transition and the end goal of disbandment.
The Reports of the Commission provide a comprehensive insight into the work that is being done to tackle paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland and they set out a pathway to achieving progress.
Speaking on the Report’s publication, the Minister for Justice, Heather Humphreys, T.D. said, “I would like to thank the Commissioners for their comprehensive overview of efforts to end paramilitarism in Northern Ireland. This fifth report shows that paramilitary groups remain a clear and present danger. These groups carry out appalling crimes targeting police and prison officers, and carrying out violent attacks in their own communities. Indeed, in recent weeks the targeting of PSNI only serve to strengthen the case for the need to continue in our efforts to tackle paramilitary activity.”
“It is unacceptable that almost 25 years since the Good Friday Agreement, paramilitary groups continue to exert control in the communities in which they operate and beyond. However, as the IRC has identified, paramilitarism is a complex phenomenon and as such this requires a multifaceted whole-of-government response to bring it to an end.”
“I welcome that the IRC reports that some of the data around paramilitary activity showed reductions in 2022 and that Phase Two of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme is beginning to achieve tangible benefits. I also welcome the recognition by the IRC of the continued good co-operation between the two jurisdictions at various levels including via the Joint Agency Task Force. There is of course still work to be done and we will continue working with the authorities in Britain and Northern Ireland, and the Independent Reporting Commission on tackling this complex problem.”
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney T.D. said, “I welcome the fifth report of the IRC as a significant contribution to the ongoing collective efforts to deal with paramilitarism. The report shows in stark terms the brutal reality of paramilitarism in 2022: the attacks, the unrelenting threats and coercion within and beyond their communities and the extent of paramilitary involvement in a range of serious and organised crime. All communities need to be definitively and irreversibly freed from the grip of paramilitarism and we need to ensure that all the necessary tools are being used to achieve that.”
“The IRC report that progress is being made in our efforts to deal with paramilitarism and that the structures and initiatives that have been put in place as a result of the Fresh Start Agreement are gaining traction. The IRC however also note that much more needs to be done and that what is required is a long-term joined-up response encompassing criminal justice measures and initiatives to address deep-seated socio-economic issues. I wish to thank the commissioners for their dedicated work and we look forward to continuing to engage closely with them in the period ahead on their recommendations.”
Ministers Humphreys and Coveney expressed thanks to the Commissioners and officials for this Report and their work to date.