BBC NEWS | Northern Ireland | Monitoring body to start work

Monitoring body to start work

The commission arose out of discussions on the joint declaration
A four-man body to monitor paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland is expected to become fully operational on Wednesday.
It is understood the Independent Monitoring Commission, which was set up in shadow form last year, will formally exist after an exchange of letters between the British and Irish Governments.

The commission is a crucial element in the two governments' plans for restoring devolution which was suspended in October 2002 amid allegations of IRA intelligence gathering at Stormont.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy is expected to make a written statement about the new body, which is aimed at bolstering public confidence in the ceasefires.

A draft international agreement was signed between the British and Irish Governments last September confirming the new commission.

However, it has taken some months to pass legislation in London and Dublin.

The commission is comprised of Richard Kerr, a former deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency; Commander John Grieve, former head of the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist squad; Lord Alderdice, the presiding officer of the assembly and retired Irish civil servant Joe Brosnan.

The commission will report on the IRA and loyalist ceasefires every six months.

The body will report back on the state of the ceasefires
It will also scrutinise the government's programme of demilitarisation and complaints about political tactics which threaten the stability of the devolved institutions.

However, only the British Government's nominees - Lord Alderdice and John Grieve - will examine how devolved ministers and Northern Ireland parties are honouring their commitments under the Good Friday Agreement.

The commission arose out of discussions on the joint declaration earlier this year involving London and Dublin and the political parties.

However, the body is already proving controversial.

While the Ulster Unionists and Alliance lobbied for the body, Sinn Fein has insisted it is outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

The SDLP believes the body could be useful, but has concerns about its remit and the DUP has shown no enthusiasm for the new commission.

Meanwhile, the Alliance Party is set to reveal its proposals for the forthcoming review of the Good Friday Agreement on Wednesday.

Party leader David Ford said it was a chance to make sure the Agreement worked despite the current difficulties facing the political process.

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