We need new, more rigorous monitoring of terror groups

It is often said that unionists do not go into Stormont demands with talks, and that is no bad thing in a way.

Tuesday, 5th November 2019, 9:31 am
News Letter editorial

It is not appropriate for parties to go in with shopping lists of demands.

The system of local government that prevails is one of mandatory coalition, which is abnormal and requires an element of goodwill from all participants.

Sinn Fein has been allowed to shatter that goodwill and to bring down devolution until its rotating list of requirements is met, most importantly an Irish language act.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

So in those circumstances there are things that unionists could reasonably demand in return.

The first is that if a power-sharing executive returns, it can never be brought down in that way again, and if it is, the process will go on without that party that departs. That would remove any unintended incentive to collapse the system.

Unionists could also insist that the military covenant is fully implemented in Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the UK, which would be a big mark of cross-community respect.

They could further demand that all parties commit to exclusively democratic means by supporting the most strenuous measures against paramilitaries that are compatible with fair justice and the rule of law.

That would mean that loyalist gangsters would live in permanent fear of the confiscation of their assets, and that dissidents would never again be led to think that bail policy is ridiculously lenient for people facing serious terror charges.

Most of all, soft sentences for people convicted of grievous offences would come to an end.

Finally, we need a completely new and much more rigorous method of monitoring terror groups to replace the Independent Reporting Commission.

The biggest paramilitary group is the IRA. Among the most criminal now is the INLA.

We need regular in-depth findings on the exact state of play with such terror gangs.