N. Ireland peace watchdog to shut despite dissident threat

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The British government said Thursday that it will close its Northern Ireland paramilitaries watchdog as the independent body released its latest report into the threat posed by dissident republicans.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) report said that dissident groups presented "a substantial and potentially lethal threat" but that the present campaign "in no way matches the range and tempo of the Troubles."

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson said the IMC, established in 1994 by the British and Irish governments to monitor paramilitary activity, would prepare one more report before it was disbanded.

"The IMC was established to help in the process of making the transition in Northern Ireland to a peaceful society and stable, inclusive devolved government," Paterson said.

"Although there remain those who have rejected peace and politics and who actively work to undermine it, Northern Ireland has made the transition to stable, local democracy and the job of the IMC is nearing completion.

"Once we have received and considered the IMC's final report, the British and Irish governments will do what is necessary to ensure that that need is met."

The latest report, which examined events during the six months up to August 31, said that dissident activities were still "a very serious matter by virtue of their range, their frequency and their nature."

Sporadic incidents have plagued the region since the last report was published six months ago including a spate of car bombings and four nights of rioting in Belfast, coinciding with July's volatile marching season.

In September, British security services officially raised the threat level from Northern Ireland-related "terrorism."

The only paramilitary murder was that of loyalist Bobby Moffett in May, an act attributed to the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), itself a loyalist organisation.

The IMC stopped short of ordering a government sanction in a September report into the killing, but reserved firm words for the group in their latest summary.

"It (the UVF) needs to take positive steps to demonstrate that it is fully committed to becoming a civilian organisation, and that it is resolutely pressing ahead with its full implementation," the report urged.

© 2010 AFP

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