Ford says Executive response ‘utterly weak’ on paramilitarism

Alliance Leader David Ford has said an Executive response to an independent report on paramilitarism is “utterly weak” after it failed to state a number of expected timescales and objectives.

The ‘Fresh Start Panel report on the Disbandment of Paramilitary Groups,’ by an independent three-person panel, was given to Ministers on time at the end of May, with the Executive due to make public its response by the end of June. However, the reaction was only published yesterday.

Mr Ford said the poor Executive response was “not what was needed to combat paramilitarism”.

“The fact the Executive took so long after receiving the report to make public its response did not bode well and unfortunately, that has proven to be the case. Throughout the Executive response, there appears to be a lot of non-specific language, with no timescales, and little indication of funding to be provided. Without any measurable objectives, it would be simple for the Executive to fudge its actions over this matter.

“The response also commits many of the recommendations to existing reviews and processes, rather than demonstrating innovative thinking, which is what any action plan seeking to tackle paramilitarism needs to do.

“Had I still been Minister of Justice, I would have expected the Executive response to contain clear targets, identifying which Department had responsibility, timescales for implementation, and funding to be provided. Instead, we have a series of vague generalisations, some merely accepting the panel’s report without anything specific.

“The so-called Fresh Start Agreement states the Executive shall make efforts to reduce community division, and the causes of sectarianism and racism here. However, this response fails to mention the words sectarianism, racism or integration.

“That is just one example but the response contains many more glaring omissions, with some vital areas only mentioned in passing. This poor response was not what was needed – we instead need a clearer document with specific timescales, measurable outcomes and strong commitments if we are to remove the stain of paramilitarism from our society.”

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