Dokumentation af Irlands historie
Af Paul-Frederik Bach
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The Irish American Information Service:
2003-05-01 14:49:00 EST

An independent monitoring body to assess and report on an end to paramilitary activity and moves by the British Government to reduce troop levels had been proposed under the joint declaration released today by the British and Irish governments.

The body would have been responsible for monitoring and reporting on claims that parties in the powersharing Assembly were in breach of their commitments to the Agreement.

Changes in the Northern Ireland Act were envisaged to allow for the exclusion of political parties found to be in serious breach.

The introduction of sanctions against parties deemed to be in breach of the Agreement is being seen as appeasing a key demand of David Trimble's Ulster Unionists.

The measure, which goes beyond the cross-community exclusion mechanism contained within the Good Friday Agreement, was strongly opposed by Sinn Fein during negotiations.

Penalties imposed on parties would have included motions of censure, the withholding of allowances, temporary suspension from participation in the Agreement`s institutions or, in the most serious cases, exclusion for varying periods.

Made up of four members, two appointed by the British Government (including one from Northern Ireland) and one each by the Irish and US, the body`s remit was to promote confidence that all parties to the Agreement were fulfilling their commitments.

It was proposed that if the Independent Monitoring Body found that a party or individual member of the Assembly was in breach, it would report its findings to the two governments, recommending what action should be taken.

The report would then be considered by an Implementation Group, made up of representatives of the Assembly parties and the two governments.

The Implementation Group could then have recommended that a motion be put before the Assembly proposing action to be taken against the offending party.

If this failed to gain cross community support or the Implementation Group failed to agree on what action to take, it would have been up to the British Government 'in consultation' with the Irish Government and other parties to resolve the matter.

In relation to the remaining threat from paramilitary groups the Independent Monitoring Body would have published its findings on:
:: any continuing paramilitary involvement in attacks on the security forces, murders, sectarian attacks, involvement in riots and other criminal offences.
:: involvement by paramilitary groups in training, targeting, intelligence gathering, acquisition or development of arms or weapons.
:: Paramilitary involvement in punishment beatings, attacks and exiling.
:: assessment of whether the leadership of paramilitary groups were directing such incidents or seeking to prevent them.

The body would also have been required to issue reports on whether the British Government was fully implementing its programme of security normalisation.

This would have included:
:: demolition of towers and observation posts.
:: withdrawal of troops from police stations.
:: closure and dismantling of military bases and installations.
:: troop deployments and withdrawals from Northern Ireland and levels of British Army helicopter use.
:: the repeal of counter-terrorist legislation particular to Northern Ireland.

The blueprint also revealed that Northern Ireland's politicians could have wielded a wide range of policing and justice powers within the lifetime of the next Assembly.

Up until now, Westminster has had responsibility for tackling crime, security and justice.

But under the joint declaration, those powers would have been transferred to Stormont once parties had agreed how they should be devolved.

Among the powers ministers could initially have had were those dealing with the prevention and detection of crime, powers of arrest, detention and the surrender of fugitive offenders between Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Further devolution would have covered parades, public order, firearms and compensation for the victims of crime.

The power-sharing executive would also have taken the place of the British government in "the tripartite arrangement" governing policing, working alongside the Police Service of Northern Ireland and on the Policing Board.

The document urged all politicians to encourage their communities to join the PSNI.

Significantly, the British government would have retained responsibility for the British army, defence and issues of 'national security'.

The document set out five options for devolving justice and policing powers.

These were:
:: A single justice department headed by one minister and possibly a junior minister from a different political tradition.
:: A justice department headed by two ministers of equal standing with decisions requiring the agreement of both.
:: Responsibility being assumed by the First and Deputy First Minister in the Northern Ireland executive, supported by their junior ministers.
:: The creation of two separate government departments - one for policing and one for justice - with a unionist occupying one of the posts and a nationalist the other.
:: A re-examination of the functions of the 10 existing Stormont departments in order to free up ministers who could take over the policing and justice functions.

The parties would also have to consider how the Assembly could scrutinise those ministers with policing and justice powers and the extent of co-operation with Dublin.

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Opdateret d. 1.1.2009