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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 October 2006, 12:47 GMT 13:47 UK
Report was what governments wanted
Vincent Kearney
By Vincent Kearney
Home affairs correspondent, BBC Northern Ireland

This is exactly what the British and Irish governments wanted to hear.

Reports from the Independent Monitoring Commission have been increasingly positive in what they say about the IRA, and this marks a new high on that Richter scale.

It has been said before that the IRA does not intend to go back to violence. That message is reinforced again, with the IMC saying the IRA is not targeting, recruiting or training, or trying to procure weapons.

IRA mural
The IMC report is the most positive yet about the IRA

But in the 12 years since it first declared its ceasefire, chief constables and other security sources have said the IRA retained the capacity to go back to violence if it changed its mind.

On Wednesday, the IMC says that has also changed.

According to the report, the IRA "has disbanded 'military' structures, including general headquarters departments responsible for procurement, engineering and training, and it has stood down volunteers and stopped allowances. Continuing inactivity itself leads to further erosion of capability."

This is the key paragraph in the report.

If that is the case, then the IRA has dismantled the key structures that enabled it to mount its terrorist campaign for more then 30 years. The message is that the IRA no longer has the capability to mount a sustained campaign, even if it wanted to.

"Nothing is ever completely irreversible," says one well-placed security source.

"But the structures have been dismantled and run down to such an extent that it would take a long time to get them back up and running again."

There is some negative comment, with the commission saying some IRA members remain involved in crime, and have been responsible for carrying out a number of assaults.

Denis Donaldson
The IMC said it was not able to say who killed Denis Donaldson

But the IMC says these activities were not sanctioned by the leadership, which "continues to direct its members not to engage in criminal activity".

On the murder of Denis Donaldson, the self-confessed British spy and former head of Sinn Fein's office at Stormont, the report says the commission does not have enough information to enable it to ascribe blame.

The overall thrust is positive, with Secretary of State Peter Hain speaking of a seismic shift in the IRA, and the government stating that it believes the report "does lay the basis for the final settlement of the conflict in Northern Ireland".

Given the number of reported historic and seismic shifts here in recent years, Northern Ireland appears to be located on a highly volatile political fault line.

The government will wait anxiously to hear whether the DUP shares its view, or whether it believes there will have to be more seismic movement before it accepts that the commission's view that the IRA "has committed itself to following the political path."


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