Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry has given a “guarded welcome” to the announcement that three loyalist paramilitary organisations will now support the rule of law, adding it was “disappointing” these conversations where still ongoing 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement. He also stressed that any new approach must be properly verified through the Independent Reporting Commission, alongside the police and other agencies.
Dr Farry said: “Alliance gives this statement a guarded welcome, but it will be actions that will determine the scope and sincerity of this new commitment. But it is disappointing that 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement these discussions are still happening.
“We have been down this road before with various Loyalist organisations only for nothing to really change and even in recent days we have witnessed loyalist shows of strength and threats to a journalist.
“Any end of criminal activity and commitment to the rule of law cannot be narrowly drawn. It must be comprehensive. We need to see an end to all illegal activity including intimidation, the erection of flags on public property, the painting of murals glorifying terrorism, the marking out of territory and the coercive control of communities. Also, it is not for these organisations to ‘self-police’. If there is any knowledge of any individuals being involved in illegal activities, now or in the past, that information should be passed to the PSNI.
“The objective here must be to see paramilitary structures and organisations disbanded. There was no need for them in the past and there is no purpose for them today. This does not mean that those with a paramilitary past cannot play a constructive role in their communities. The infrastructure for that already exists, and community developments must not the taken delivered through organisations associated with terrorism and criminality.
“Today’s announcement cannot be seen as a means to provide a platform for current paramilitaries to access money under either the Paramilitary Action Plan or other community deprivation funds. Alliance has made clear that these funds should be used to support and rebuild communities and to empower other voices.
“Any new change in approach does need to be properly verified through the Independent Reporting Commission alongside the police and other agencies. There needs to be clear changes in terms of how communities are being transformed and experiencing a culture of lawfulness.”