The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland (Owen Paterson): The final report of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), prepared at the request of the British and Irish Governments, has been published today by both governments. I have placed a copy of the report in the library.
This final report reflects on the IICD’s 12 years in operation from September 1997 to the ending of the decommissioning amnesty in February 2010. It provides an account of arms decommissioned by paramilitary organisations, a summary of key factors that enabled the Commission to deliver its objectives and highlights the lessons learnt.
The Commission’s remit was to provide a mechanism, entirely independent of government, to execute the decommissioning of paramilitary arms in a manner that rendered them permanently inaccessible or unusable. The task was difficult and the Commissioners worked tirelessly to achieve it. There is no doubt that their independence and high level of commitment were crucial in gaining the confidence of paramilitary organisations. The resulting major acts of decommissioning they secured have contributed to making Northern Ireland a more peaceful, stable and inclusive society.
Many will be expecting an inventory to be included in the report. The IICD did not provide the British and Irish governments with an inventory when they submitted their final report. This was rightly a decision taken independently by the Commission. The Commissioners say in their final report that “providing details now of what paramilitary arms have been put beyond use, could, in our opinion, encourage attacks on those groups which have taken risks for peace. This is true of both Loyalists and Republican paramilitary groups. We would not wish, inadvertently, to discourage future decommissioning events by groups that are actively engaged today, nor to deter groups that have decommissioned their arms from handing over any arms that may subsequently come to light” (paragraph 30). The IICD has made arrangements for the safe retention of the records of decommissioned arms by the United States Department of State in Washington who will hold them securely.
Sadly, as recent violent events revealed, there remain those who have rejected peace and politics and who want to drag Northern Ireland back to its troubled past. However, the majority of paramilitary organisations have decided to pursue their goals by political and democratic means exclusively. The IICD’s final report is a valuable insight into how this has been achieved. Northern Ireland has made great strides towards stable, local democracy and I wish to place on record my immense gratitude to the Commission and their staff for their enormous contribution and longstanding commitment to their work.