The Community Relations Council’s third Peace Monitoring Report, which provides a detailed overview of the peace process, gives evidence that shows the dissident republican campaign is functioning at a “low level,” with it having been weakened by the regular emergence of new groups.
The report also highlighted that two decades after the loyalist ceasefires, the UDA and UVF are still in existence, with the past year having seen a revival of their fortunes and “the attainment of a new respectability,” thanks to a “new tolerance of paramilitary structures by the DUP and UUP” via the Unionist Forum.
In particular, the report mentions a Forum meeting at Stormont at which First Minister Peter Robinson was photographed shaking hands with UDA Brigadier Jackie McDonald and where a PUP member subsequently named by the BBC as a UVF commander in North Belfast was also present.
Alliance MP Mrs Long said the report showed that while the security situation here was not perfect, neither was it as bad as some feared.
“Although this is confirmation dissidents are operating a low-level campaign, we must not let the level of violence make us lax. To do so would allow these people, who operate in a climate of fear, an opportunity to wreck the peace process and drag Northern Ireland back to the bad old days of the Troubles.
“In terms of the Unionist Forum, Alliance was always opposed to its creation, which harkened back to tribal politics and looked to cement divisions rather than deliver a shared future. For the DUP and UUP to create a platform which could at some level give legitimacy or credibility to paramilitary groups or those engaged in illegal protests and civil disturbances was not only objectionable but unhelpful. Only yesterday in the House of Commons I called on all such illegal groups to cease both their activities and their very existence.
“There is a viewpoint that continues to try to distinguish between paramilitarism and criminality when it comes to loyalist paramilitaries, in a manner which sets it at odds with the approach towards dissident republican activity. I would again call on other parties to clarify if they view the likes of the UDA and UVF as illegal organisations which ought to cease to exist.”