Irish Echo Online - Editorial

Irish Echo editorial: IMC's political judgments

The speed in which the Independent Monitoring Commission has reported on alleged IRA activity could not contrast more sharply with the reticence shown by the British government in implementing a public inquiry following the Cory Report into the murder of, among others, Belfast lawyer Pat Finucane.

The report by the IMC on paramilitary activity will have serious ramifications for the Northern peace process -- and probably destroys any chance of short-term resolution to the current impasse. It will be used by unionists to block any moves toward a restoration of power sharing on anything but their own terms. Its timing, brought forward by several months at the behest of the British government, has scuppered any hope of an immediate breakthrough. Throughout the report the IMC stresses its own independence yet demonstrably failed to exercise this very independence when asked to report two months in advance of its original deadline.

Sinn Fein is now firmly in the political dog house over claims that the

IRA is involved in racketeering, punishment beatings and abductions. While republicans surely must get their house in order if they wish to sustain their involvement in a devolved Northern government, the report does little more than strengthen the hand of those who seek to prevent change.

Most worryingly, however, the IMC appears to have overstepped its mark with what are overtly political judgments. It calls on all parties in the North to support the criminal-justice system and policing regime -- despite whatever reservations they may have about the speed of reform. This is clearly aimed at Sinn Fein, the majority nationalist party in the North. It has come under considerable pressure from the British, Irish and U.S. establishments for its continued refusal to endorse the North's new policing bodies.

While much attention has been placed on what the Commission had to say about alleged IRA activity, in particular its contention that republicans were behind the abduction of Bobby Tohill, little has been made of its findings regarding loyalist violence.

The UDA and the UVF have engaged in scores of attacks on Catholics in the six years since the signing of the Good Friday agreement. More recently UVF members have turned their attentions to ethnic minorities living in Belfast engaging in a series of racially motivated attacks.

It seems loyalists, despite the recommendation by the IMC that the

Progressive Unionist Party be fined for UVF misdemeanours, will escape the type of scathing criticism that is already being directed at Sinn Fein.

Nationalists, meanwhile, will only have the Police Service of Northern Ireland to rely on to protect them from loyalist aggression -- a police force that most of them still find unacceptable.

The IMC report may be viewed on line HERE

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