Thursday, 18 November 2021
Department of Justice and Equality
283. To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the reports that she has received from the Independent Reporting Commission to date in relation to its work of building a peaceful Northern Ireland; the actions taken on foot of these reports; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [56480/21]
To facilitate monitoring of the implementation of measures aimed at ending paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, the Fresh Start Agreement provided for the establishment by the two Governments of the Independent Reporting Commission. An international agreement between Ireland and the UK establishing the Independent Reporting Commission was signed in Dublin on 13 September 2016 and it was given effect to by legislation in both jurisdictions.
In summary, the Commission’s functions are to report annually on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland; report on the implementation of the relevant measures of the three administrations; and to consult with relevant stakeholders in this regard.
The Commission submitted its first report to the Governments in 2018, the second in 2019, and the third last year. As the Deputy will be aware, the two Governments have published the Commission's first three reports and the fourth report is due in the coming weeks.
I and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland have welcomed the reports. They provide an opportune reminder of the continuing adverse impact of paramilitarism on society in Northern Ireland. The Reports set out a pathway to achieving progress both through the policing and criminal justice response and a response to the wider socio-economic factors that exist in the communities where paramilitaries continue to operate. The Commission refers to this as the twin track approach. This requires a whole of Government focus and the Commissioners are encouraged that that is reflected in the second phase of the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme in Northern Ireland which runs to 2024.
The Commission, in their Reports, note the extent and effectiveness of the co-operation between the Authorities in both jurisdictions to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality.
As well as reminding us of what needs to be done to tackle paramilitarism, the reports also point to the steady progress on the 43 Actions set out in the Executive Action Plan for Tackling Paramilitary Activity. Reporting on the vast majority of the actions falls to the Tackling Paramilitarism Programme Team located at the Northern Ireland Department of Justice. A small number of the actions apply to actions and commitments made by the UK and Irish Governments as part of the Action Plan. Every year the Governments update the Commission on these actions.
In each report, the Commission also makes a number of recommendations and these are reported on in the following years.
I, as Minister for Justice, and my predecessor have met with the Commission to hear about the progress the Commission has been making in carrying out its functions and to provide any assistance this Government can offer to achieve its task. These meetings with members of the Commission have always been very informative and constructive. The Commission has been very active in pursuing its remit and has had a wide engagement with a range of relevant stakeholders, both North and South. Although it is evident that much productive work has taken place in the last few years, it is clear that more needs to be done.
I look forward to receiving the Commission's fourth report.