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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 16:11 GMT 17:11 UK
IMC report expected to be positive
With the body set up to monitor the paramilitary ceasefires publishing its tenth report on Wednesday, BBC NI's home affairs correspondent, Vincent Kearney, reports that the indications are the British and Irish governments will like what it says.

Each report by the Independent Monitoring Commission is studied with great care.

IRA gunman
The IMC reports on paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland

The governments hope to hear good news, something to help them persuade unionists that the IRA really has left violence behind, while unionists get ready to pounce on any suggestion that the IRA is still active in any way.

This is the tenth IMC report, and it is expected to be the most positive yet in terms of what it says about the activities of the IRA.

It won't be an entirely clean bill of health, but the report will say there are strong indications that the IRA is heading in the right direction and moving away from violence towards politics.

The commission will say the IRA has significantly reduced its intelligence gathering and criminal activity.

But the most significant remarks will refer to the IRA's weapons.

The commission sparked a major political storm in February when it said it had received reports that not all of the IRA's weapons and ammunition had been handed over for decommissioning.

The IMC
The IMC was established by the governments in January 2004

John Grieve, one of the IMC members, then stated: "If these reports were confirmed, the key question would be how much the IRA leadership knew about these weapons."

That claim appeared to suggest a major difference of opinion between the IMC and General John de Chastelain, the head of the body that oversaw decommissioning.

Shortly after the IMC report was published, the government released a letter sent to it by the general two weeks earlier in which he stood by his assertion that the IRA had put all weapons beyond use.

Sinn Fein and the IRA angrily rejected the allegation, with Martin McGuinness colourfully dismissing it as "bullshit of the highest order".

But unionists seized on the comments as evidence of bad faith by republicans.

In the latest report, to be published this week, the IMC will stand by the claim that not all of the IRA's weapons were decommissioned.

But, crucially, it will say that the weapons were retained by local IRA units and that the move was not sanctioned by the organisation's leadership.

That clarification, and the commission's view that the IRA remains committed to the political process, will be welcomed by the British and Irish governments as they strive to restore the assembly at Stormont.

But unionists, who reacted swiftly to the claim that the IRA had retained weapons, are likely to be much more reticent this time around.

UDA mural
The report is expected to say loyalists are involved in criminality

The commission's verdict on the loyalist paramilitaries will be less positive.

It will say that, while there is evidence that some elements within both the UDA and the UVF want to move the organisations away from paramilitary activity and criminality, the reality is that members of both groups are heavily engaged in crime, including drug dealing and extortion.

The report will not include an assessment of the murder of self-confessed British spy Denis Donaldson, the former head of Sinn Fein's administration at Stormont who was murdered in Donegal earlier this month.

That's because the report covers the period from September last year until 28 February.

The IMC's view of the murder is expected to be included in its next report, which is due to be published in October, just a month before the governments' declared deadline for the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

The Independent Monitoring Commission was set up by the British and Irish governments in January 2004.

It also monitors the "normalisation" of security measures in Northern Ireland.

Its four commissioners come from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Britain and the US.




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