IRA 'no longer terrorist threat'

The IRA does not pose a terrorist threat as it has decided to follow a political path, the Independent Monitoring Commission has said.
In its ninth report, it said the IRA leadership had instructed its members not to engage in public disorder.

However, it said dissident republican paramilitaries still posed a threat.

The commission said while loyalists were heavily involved in organised crime, there were signs of a possible readiness to abandon some criminality.

The IMC, the body monitoring paramilitary activity, said the dissident republican capacity to mount a sustained campaign was limited, but they were "prepared to resort to extreme violence".

Their threat was higher in certain places, of which south Armagh was the most obvious, and they were heavily engaged in organised crime.

It said said loyalist paramilitaries had shown themselves capable of extreme violence.

But the IMC said it did not think they presented a continuing threat to the security forces akin to that of the dissident republicans.

The IMC said: "We believe there are signs of a possible readiness to turn away from some of their present criminality."

It added: "It is impossible to say at this stage how far, if at all, these signs will develop into any real changes of behaviour."

The report is the ninth presented to the government by the IMC but its first on the security normalisation programme set in motion by Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain last August.

It was received by the Government from the IMC last week and published on Wednesday as Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern met in London to review their plan for revising devolution in Northern Ireland.

In its report last month, the IMC said the IRA was still gathering intelligence - some of it for defensive purposes, but primarily for pursuing its political strategy.

It said it believed the activity was authorised by the IRA leadership. It also claimed some IRA members were still involved in organised crime.

But it said the IRA seemed to be "moving in the right direction".

The Independent Monitoring Commission was set up by the British and Irish governments in January 2004.

It also monitors the "normalisation" of security measures in Northern Ireland.

Its four commissioners come from Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Britain and the US.