Letter received today (Fri) from John Reid to D Ford:
Information about levels of paramilitary violence in the community in Northern Ireland
In my statement to the House of Commons on 24 July, I said that it would help us and the public in NI to have more transparent information about the involvement of paramilitary groups in the kind of violence we have seen recently with such tragic results and the general pattern of paramilitary activity in the community.
Already I have asked Prof Ron Goldstock to assist me in assessing the scale of the involvement of paramilitaries in racketeering and organised crime. As I said in the House, I can see a case for doing something similar, to shine a light on levels of paramilitary violence in the community, both loyalist and republican, and supplement the judgements I make about ceasefires. I undertook to consult widely on how this might best be done and to make my views known after the summer break.
The purpose of this letter is to begin that process of consultation.
The decision on whether an organisation is maintaining a complete and unequivocal ceasefire is one which I must take under the legislation. Any new mechanism could not be a substitute for that. But it could supplement my judgement and help in addressing honestly the problems that still exist.
I should be very grateful to hear your party’s views on this idea. Questions on which you might want to comment are:
-whether there is a need for more transparent information about the levels of paramilitary violence in the community;
-if so, whether the need for the information would best be met by appointing a person or group of people from outside Government and the security agencies;
-what sort of background such an appointee or appointees might have;
-what their remit might be, and how they might operate in practice.
I appreciate it is a difficult time of year to connect fully with parties, but it would be very helpful to have an early reaction, if possible by the beginning of September. I would be happy to arrange a discussion when I return from holiday at the end of August, to hear your views at first hand. If you would like to have an earlier discussion, I have asked Des Browne to make himself available.