Independent Reporting Commission Bill 2017: Second Stage

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am very pleased to present the Bill to the House. It has been brought forward to give effect to one of a number of commitments arising under the Stormont House Agreement implementation plan, known as the Fresh Start agreement. Deputies will recall that in September 2015 the Irish and British Governments convened a talks process in Northern Ireland to address the issue of implementation of the Stormont House Agreement of 2014, as well as trust and confidence issues stemming from the legacy of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland that had led to difficulties at the Northern Ireland Executive in the course of 2015. Following ten weeks of talks, the Fresh Start agreement was concluded on 17 November 2015. The agreement provides a roadmap for implementation of many aspects of the Stormont House Agreement of 23 December 2014, including measures to support institutional reform at the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Executive, as well as financial and welfare reform in Northern Ireland. The agreement also sets out a strategic approach to ending paramilitarism in Northern Ireland and tackling organised crime, especially cross-Border crime. It contains a firm commitment to achieve a society free of paramilitarism, to work for the disbandment of all paramilitary organisations and their structures and to challenge paramilitary attempts to control communities.

An important thread that ran through the talks was the need to tackle the legacy of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland on a cross-cutting basis, if you will, to see it as a whole of society issue, rather than solely through the lens of security and policing. In that regard, among the key elements of the agreement is the establishment of a joint agency task force as provided for in the agreement.

The task force is a cross-Border, multi-agency body which has been established to enhance co-operation between police, revenue and other law enforcement agencies, at both strategic and operational levels, in tackling cross-Border organised crime. It is led by the police and revenue services in both jurisdictions. It has been taking forward a range of targeted actions to tackle serious criminal activities which exploit the Border and impact, in particular on Border communities.

Another key element is the Northern Ireland Executive’s strategy to end paramilitarism. In line with the agreement, the Executive appointed an expert panel to develop recommendations for the disbandment of paramilitary groups. The panel comprised Lord Alderdice, Professor Monica McWilliams and Mr. John McBurney. It reported to the Executive in June 2016. Based on the panel’s report, the Executive published its action plan on tackling paramilitary activity, criminality and organised crime on 19 July 2016.

The action plan adopts an Executive-wide strategic approach to measures aimed at ending paramilitary activity, including measures to promote a culture of lawfulness, to support persons moving away from paramilitary activity to do so, to tackle criminality linked to paramilitaries and to address broader societal challenges, such as educational and economic disadvantage that can be exploited by paramilitarism.

The Fresh Start agreement also provides for the establishment by the two Governments of a body to monitor and report on the implementation of the various measures in the agreement aimed at ending paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. This body is the Independent Reporting Commission. In my previous capacity as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I signed an international agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom on the establishment of the Independent Reporting Commission on 13 September 2016. The agreement, which is included in the Schedule, outlines the agreed structure, functions, objectives and other necessary arrangements for the commission. The Bill before the House will provide for these in law. It is the intention that reporting on the implementation of the Executive’s action plan will be a priority for the commission to help to support and to ensure its implementation by the Executive.

The Bill has 12 sections which provide for the establishment of the commission in accordance with the terms of the international agreement between Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Section 1 contains the definitions of terms used. Section 2 provides for the establishment and status of the commission as an independent body with the legal capacity of a body corporate. Section 3 articulates the objective and functions of the commission. These are set out in the agreement between the Governments establishing the commission and they follow directly from the Fresh Start agreement.

The commission’s primary objective is the promotion of progress towards ending paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland in the interests of long-term peace and stability in society, and stable and inclusive devolved government in Northern Ireland. Regarding the functions of the commission in dealing with the remaining threat of paramilitary activity, the commission will report on the progress being made towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland.

Section 4 provides that the Minister will provide the commission, on a basis to be determined by the Government, with funding, premises, facilities and other services as may be necessary for its proper functioning. The costs of the commission will be shared between the Governments.

Section 5 provides for the necessary privileges, immunities and inviolabilities of the commission. These provisions are particularly important given the sensitivity of some of the matters with which the commission will be dealing.

Section 6 sets out certain duties for the commission in the performance of its functions, notably that it will not do anything that might put at risk the life or safety of any person, have a prejudicial effect in Ireland or the United Kingdom on national security interests, legal proceedings, or the prevention, investigation, detection or prosecution of crime. These provisions in sections 5 and 6 are particularly important given the obviously sensitive nature of the matters with which the commission will be dealing. They are also important in ensuring there is no unintentional interference with the work of An Garda Síochána and the PSNI in their ongoing work to tackle paramilitary groups and criminal gangs.

Section 7 provides for controls on the disclosure of information obtained in the performance of their functions, unless authorised by or on behalf of the commission. It also facilitates co-operation between the commission and An Garda Síochána. The lifespan anticipated for the commission in the course of the Fresh Start agreement talks was about five years. Section 8 provides for the future dissolution of the commission by mutual agreement of the two Governments.

Section 9 amends the Freedom of Information Act 2014 to preclude the application of the Act to the commission. This is required by the nature of the sensitive information with which the commission will deal.

Section 10 provides for the laying of the commission’s reports to the two Governments before the Houses of the Oireachtas. The commission will report at least annually. Sections 11 and 12 are standard provisions for legislation relating to the expenses arising being paid out of moneys provided by the Oireachtas, as well as the Short Title and commencement arrangements.

As provided for in the Fresh Start agreement, the commission will be a four-member body. The Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive have advanced matters by nominating the four commissioners. The Irish Government has nominated Mr. Tim O’Connor, a former Secretary General to the President and a respected former diplomat. The British Government has nominated Mr. Mitchell Reiss, the US special envoy to Northern Ireland between 2003 and 2007. The Northern Ireland Executive has nominated Mr. John McBurney, a well known and respected Northern Ireland solicitor and Professor Monica McWilliams, who has long experience in politics and public service in Northern Ireland. Mr. John McBurney and Professor Monica McWilliams were members of the Executive’s expert panel on the disbandment of paramilitaries which reported in June 2016. All four nominated commissioners have extensive experience of the situation in Northern Ireland. They will have the full support of the Irish and British Governments and of the parties in Northern Ireland in bringing forward their work.

There is an ongoing process of talks at Stormont aimed at establishing the Executive following the Assembly elections earlier this year. While much progress has been made in reaching agreement on a range of important issues, it has not yet proved possible to finalise an agreement which will facilitate the formation of the Executive for the time being. That is, of course, a disappointment shared by every Member. The Government maintains its strong, ongoing commitment to the success of the institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement and we will continue to play our full part in supporting the resumption of power-sharing in Northern Ireland. My successor, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, has encouraged all the parties in Northern Ireland to maintain contact with each other over the coming weeks with the aim of securing agreement.

The Bill is not without precedent. It follows in many respects the arrangements successfully put in place in regard to other bodies established to further the objectives of the Good Friday Agreement, notably the Independent Monitoring Commission. The Independent Reporting Commission will have an important role to play in bringing forward work aimed at bringing an end to paramilitarism and its insidious legacy which impacts on all communities in Northern Ireland.

I commend the Bill to the House.

It is the first occasion on which I can publicly thank the Minister, Deputy Charles Flanagan, for his work as Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. I wish him well in his current role in the justice ministry.

Fianna Fáil supports this legislation which is one of the key outcomes of the Fresh Start agreement of November 2015. The Bill creates a new monitoring body to review and report on any paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. It is a sad reflection on both Sinn Féin and the DUP that such a body is still required almost 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement. The peace process was always about more than the absence of violence. However, the zero-sum attitudes taken by the two main parties, which has led to the current impasse in Stormont, has hobbled the immense potential and optimism of the Good Friday Agreement.

This sterile political environment has allowed paramilitaries to continue to blight Northern Ireland in both communities. This Bill was necessitated by the MI5-PSNI confirmation of the continued existence of the IRA and its role in formulating Sinn Féin policy. Sinn Féin has fundamental questions to answer around its links to the IRA which has no part in a democratic state. It is now time for Sinn Féin and the DUP to move beyond tribal partisanship and work to ensure Northern Ireland is capable of addressing the most important challenge of our lifetime, namely, Brexit. The existence of the IRA, its highly lucrative criminal network and role in setting the political agenda raises fundamental questions for Sinn Féin. It must ensure there is no role for such armed groups in a democratic state.

That we are still dealing with paramilitarism in 2017 is a sad reflection on Northern politics. The rigor mortis of the approach of both Sinn Féin and the DUP has stifled development and fostered deepening cynicism that is leaving many communities behind. These communities are ripe territories for paramilitary groups from which to operate. The current crisis is the latest in an exhausting series of difficulties. In the face of Brexit, the most serious geopolitical challenge this island has faced in generations, the Northern Executive remains in deep freeze. The parties have to get their act together and find a compromise, recognising that it involves movement on both sides.

The purpose of the IRC is to promote progress towards ending paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland in the interests of long-term peace and stability and stable and inclusive devolved government in Northern Ireland. An international agreement between the Irish and British Governments was signed on 13 September 2016 and provides for the establishment of the IRC as an independent body. The IRC will need to be established in the domestic law of each jurisdiction, as appropriate. The nominations for the membership of the IRC have been announced by the Irish and British Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive. We in Fianna Fáil welcome the nominations. The names have been mentioned by the Minister.

In July 2005 the IRA formally ended its armed campaign and ordered all volunteers to assist in the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. It stated volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever. It subsequently decommissioned in September 2005. The St. Andrews Agreement, dated October 2006, saw Sinn Féin agree to the PSNI and the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly in May 2007 following its suspension in 2003 after the Sinn Féin spy ring controversy. In the intervening years, however, a number of serious incidents occurred that underline the fact that the IRA has not, as Deputy Gerry Adams said, "gone away". Events such as the brutal murder of Paul Quinn in October 2007 in County Monaghan, revelation of the systematic cover-up of sex abuse in republican ranks and the recent tit-for-tat murders expose a continued presence.

The political crisis that led to the 2015 Fresh Start agreement arose from the investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan in 2015 which was believed to have been in retaliation for the murder earlier that summer of Jock Davison, a senior republican involved in the murder of Robert McCartney in 2005. The investigation revealed the PSNI's belief the IRA continued to exist and was possibly involved in the murder. Subsequently the Garda Commissioner backtracked on a February 2015 letter to state her belief the IRA existed. The former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, also confirmed that she believed it existed. The Sinn Féin Northern chair Bobby Storey was arrested but not charged in connection with the murder. It is not credible for Deputy Gerry Adams or any other member of Sinn Féin to say Sinn Féin has "no special responsibility" for the IRA. They are one and the same and any objective commentator or historian recognises that, behind the spin, that is a fact.

In October 2015 MI5 and the PSNI issued a report on paramilitary activity that had been requested following the McGuigan murder. It reached very disturbing conclusions about the continued existence of the Provisional IRA, its army council and ongoing role in criminality and the belief of Provisional IRA members that the army council set out strategy for both the IRA and Sinn Féin. That the army council decides Sinn Féin strategy is profoundly anti-democratic as it means that a political party operating in both jurisdictions is being directed by an illegal armed gang. There is absolutely no space for this in any democracy.

A separate Garda report set out how €28 million worth of criminal assets had been extracted by the Criminal Assets Bureau from 50 IRA members since 1996. This is part of a broader criminal empire worth a total of €500 million, or €70 million per annum. One has to ask where this money goes.

Northern Ireland remains engulfed in yet another political crisis that has led to a protracted paralysis in the institutions. The lack of progress in getting the institutions up and running is deeply disappointing and underlines our concerns that zero-sum politics is sustaining fertile ground for paramilitaries.

Let me mention some paramilitary incidents involving both loyalist and republican groups. A report entitled, Police Recorded Security Situation Statistics, makes for alarming reading in regard to paramilitary activity on both sides. In 2007-08, one death due to paramilitary activity was recorded, whereas in 2016-17 the number was five. In 2007-08 there were 42 shooting incidents, whereas there were 61 in 2017. In 2007-08 there were 23 bombing incidents, whereas there were 29 in 2016-17. In 2007-08 there were 45 casualties of paramilitary-style assaults, whereas there were 66 in 2016-17. The list goes on, with the exceptions being reductions in the numbers of firearms, rounds of ammunition and quantities, in kilograms, of explosives found. These statistics, in themselves, show the uncertainty, instability and the continuing paramilitarism that needs to stop. That is why Fianna Fáil welcomes this legislation.

Owing to the tight numbers in the House of Commons, the Tory Government is reliant on DUP support. The DUP has secured a deal that will see £1 billion over two years and further flexibility, amounting to around £500 million, already committed to. The deal appears to bypass the Barnett formula used in allocating funding across the component nations of the United Kingdom. This has drawn criticism from other devolved administrations. We hope there will be a focus on the key Stormont House Agreement and Fresh Start agreement measures, with the emphasis being placed on projects such as the A5 motorway to Derry which will be a key piece of infrastructure that will benefit the north west of the country. In addition, the Narrow Water Bridge project, in my county, should be completed, using some of the moneys to be made available. It would be of great benefit to counties Down and Louth, in particular, given the tourism opportunities offered. The Irish Government should uphold its commitment in respect of these measures.

The botched renewable heat incentive scheme which could cost up to £490 million acted as the catalyst for the crisis. Behind the immediate problems, however, lies a deeper malaise that has afflicted the institutions in recent years. The political system has to move on from this addiction to crisis politics. In the past few years there have been annual problems with the institutions, punctuated by a series of new agreements and arrangements designed to keep the system ticking over. Since 2013 alone, there have been the Haass talks, the Stormont House Agreement and the Fresh Start agreement which aim to reinvigorate a stagnant political process. History has shown it requires both Governments to engage fully and honestly to keep the peace process moving forward. The DUP's leverage cannot be allowed to stymie progress and undermine long-established British policy for the sake of short-term political gain.

I ask Deputy Breathnach-----

I am just about to finish.

I ask Deputy Breathnach to propose the adjournment of the debate.

Yes, I am just finishing my sentence. I will do that.

Likewise, Sinn Féin has painted itself into a corner and must have the honesty to agree a way out of this impasse. With Brexit looming, all parties and none need to work together to ensure that there is no hard Border. It is time for real maturity and leadership for all on this island.

If time has expired, although I think it has not-----

It has not. I misread my own note.

I thank the Ceann Comhairle. In the interest of letting the debate continue, I will conclude.

I call Deputy Nolan, who is sharing time with Deputy Martin Kenny.

Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCeann Comhairle as ucht an deis labhairt ar an mBille seo inniu. I take this opportunity to wish Deputy Flanagan well in his new role as Minister for Justice and Equality.

I welcome this Bill, which gives effect to the international agreement between the Irish and British Governments in September last year to establish the Independent Reporting Commission. The Independent Reporting Commission mechanism was agreed as part of the Fresh Start agreement in November 2015, which Sinn Féin negotiated and supported along with other parties. All and any steps that contribute to the ending of violence and criminality on our island are to be welcomed. The establishment of the Independent Reporting Commission is a positive step forward in that regard.

Its objective, as outlined in section 3 of the Bill, is to support long-term peace and stability. No one in this House can argue against that objective. It is what all of us want to see: peaceful communities and a peaceful country. There are those, however, who do not want to see that objective fulfilled. The continued activity of so-called paramilitary groups impedes the development of peace and imposes hardship and inflicts great harm on citizens and communities. The Bill before us this evening quite rightly reflects the need for greater all-Ireland co-operation to tackle crime and criminal activity. I welcome the realisation from both Governments and all parties, North and South, that we are better able to tackle issues like this on an all-island basis.

The argument has been made here many times that together we are better equipped to tackle the big issues that face all on the island. Sinn Féin is totally and absolutely opposed to criminality of all kinds and we stand with communities across this island, with An Garda Síochána and the PSNI in opposing criminal gangs and criminality in all its forms. As a consequence, Sinn Féin members' homes and families have been attacked. Our party will continue to try to reach out to others and to robustly face down violent loyalism and so-called republican dissidents.

Despite that fact, there have been deliberate efforts to criminalise and demonise republicans, Sinn Féin activists and other citizens, especially those in cross-Border communities in places like south Armagh and north Louth. Contrary to the image portrayed by some elements in the media and some in this place, such portraits are a fallacy, conjured up for the purposes of pathetic political point-scoring. There is no doubt that criminal gangs who masquerade as republicans for whatever reason exist. They are not republicans. They are criminals. No doubt, the Independent Reporting Commission will come to that same conclusion.

There is also a major problem relating to ongoing loyalist paramilitary violence, which should concern us all. The recent killing of a man in Bangor, purportedly as a result of a feud within the UDA, is deeply concerning and there can be no room for such grievous acts in a civilised society. I urge those involved to stop now in the interests of all citizens.

The Independent Reporting Commission is a mechanism on which we can all agree. It was agreed as a result of all-party talks and agreement between both Governments. The latest round of talks in the North has regrettably not proven successful, despite the very best efforts of Sinn Féin to find agreement with the DUP, the other parties and the two Governments on outstanding issues. It is disappointing but perhaps not surprising that a deal has not been done. Such a result is a direct consequence of the British Prime Minister, Theresa May, supporting the DUP and the DUP supporting her. It is a monumental failure by her and her Government. Decades of work are being put on hold to keep her in power.

It should be very clear by now that a restored assembly and Executive are only sustainable and tenable if based on fairness, respect and equality. The rights-based issues, whether they be Acht na Gaeilge, a bill of rights, marriage equality or the rights of families to coroners’ inquests, independent investigations and information recovery, are not solely Sinn Féin demands. They are citizens' demands. They are basic rights that are protected in England, Scotland, Wales and the rest of Ireland. The denial of these rights would not be tolerated elsewhere on these islands and therefore should not be tolerated in the North. However, the British Government is prepared to facilitate such a failure because it is in hock to the DUP. It is prepared to say "No" to fundamental human rights to appease its partners in the DUP. It is totally unacceptable. Sinn Féin was, and is, prepared to work through the issues involved. We will continue to try to do that but we will not tolerate the denial of basic human rights.

It should not be a shock to anyone that unionist parties want to delay or that they come to the issues of rights slowly and reluctantly but they cannot do that forever. The reality is the Sinn Féin electorate will not consent to be governed by the DUP on the DUP's terms. We do not and would not expect the DUP electorate to consent to be governed by us on Sinn Féin's terms. Therefore, it is really quite simple. It is all about rights. It is about equality and respect. It is all about agreement on how these rights are to be delivered. That is the only way to get the institutions back in place. We have said that very directly to the DUP. We have said the same thing to the British Government. Mrs. May is prepared to tolerate in the North the denial of rights that are enjoyed everywhere else on these islands. That is not acceptable to us, nor will it ever be. It should not be acceptable to anyone else and we look especially to the Taoiseach to make this clear to Theresa May.

To be honest, I was not going to speak on this Bill at all. I was up in the office watching on the monitor and listening to Deputy Breathnach. While I was angry for a moment, it soon turned to regret that Fianna Fáil Members have come to a place at which they see any opportunity to speak about this conflict as an opportunity to attack Sinn Féin. To go to such places as to talk about child sex abuse in the context of a debate of this nature displays something that Fianna Fáil certainly should be well above at this stage as the political party that has been in power for so long in this country. It is more than disappointing that this is where it is.

The truth is that the conflict in Ireland has thousands of different dimensions to it - not one, but thousands. Thousands of people were hurt and thousands of people made an effort to take us to a different place. Many of us from a republican community worked very hard to engage and do everything we could to bring things forward. We went into the hard places and sat in rooms to talk to the people who were totally opposed to our position. We moved things forward. We did that in a sense of generosity. We held our ground when we had to, moved forward and brought people to a new place in this country. We will not be ridiculed in the way that Fianna Fáil has done so today.

It would do Deputy Breathnach no harm to spend a bit more time North of the Border. We see people's judgment of these things reflected in the elections. In the last election, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Labour Party supported the SDLP. Where is the SDLP? The people made their choice. If the people of the North are so wrong to support Sinn Féin, then Deputy Breathnach needs to go and learn a little bit from them because that is not the case.

Do not lecture me.

The truth of it is that the Irish people have decided that peace is the way forward. That is a peace with justice, not a peace for any sake. I am not here to try to say that republicans were correct in everything they did throughout the conflict. That is not the case. However, we are certainly not going to be attacked by a political party whose only motivation in all of these things is to gain political points, score strokes and pull little fast ones for themselves and their cronies. That day is over. We are moving to a new politics in this country and it is time we did so.

We are shining a light.

The power-sharing Executive that we have had in the North for the past number of years has not been about power-sharing. From a unionist point of view, it has been about power-dividing and about dividing up power and people.

That is what we want to end and we will stand firm to ensure this does end. Acht na Gaeilge and the other issues are about not just respect for the Irish language but respect for Irish identity. That is the key thing Acht na Gaeilge represents. Anyone who spends any time up there can understand this is what this is about and this is why we have stood so firm with regard to that.

The other issues that are still outstanding with regard to the talks in Northern Ireland are issues that make a big difference to ordinary people's lives - issues relating to rights. If people have rights in one part of this island, they should have rights in all parts of this island and we will stand firm to make sure this will happen.

We support the Independent Reporting Commission because it is one of the conclusions of an agreement that was put in place by all parties to the conflict, all parties in Northern Ireland and the British and Irish Governments, which have a responsibility to stand over it and make sure these things are put in place. If we are to move forward, Fianna Fáil and other political parties in this arena must realise that the old days of just throwing dirt around must end. We need to grow up and recognise that the Irish people have a future, their future is at stake and we cannot continue in this manner.

I thank the Deputies for their contributions to the debate on this Bill. I acknowledge the broad support that has been expressed for the Bill and the objectives of the Independent Reporting Commission. I also acknowledge the traditional cross-party support of this House for measures that have been brought forward over the years in support of the process of seeking peace and the ongoing process of reconciliation in Northern Ireland building on the many initiatives and the achievements of all Governments throughout the decades of the Troubles and since then. I am very pleased to see the cross-party approach being maintained here this evening. I acknowledge the contribution of Deputy Breathnach, the support of his party and the interest the Deputy has shown in this issue over a long number of years. I acknowledge that he represents the constituency of Louth along a Border area so it comes as no surprise that he has a deep interest in matters pertaining to Northern Ireland. I acknowledge the contribution of Deputy Nolan. I do not suppose it is premature of me to say that we are now constituency colleagues in a way that happened suddenly and without notice. I look forward to working with Deputy Nolan as both of us strive to represent the enlarged constituency of Laois-Offaly, which I had the pleasure of representing for a long number of years. I did not expect that I would have the opportunity to represent it again so soon. No doubt, Deputy Nolan and I will meet outside the House in a way we have not done to date, representing as we do different constituencies. I acknowledge the comments of Deputy Martin Kenny, who, again, is a new Deputy representing the important Border constituency of Sligo-Leitrim. He also brings a wealth of experience to the House in terms of day-to-day life in Border areas. There are many issues we have in common in terms of the economic and social well-being of people in Border areas.

I regret that the talks of recent weeks have not produced the restoration of the Executive and a working assembly, as we would have hoped. I note that the talks have been paused for a few weeks but I encourage all parties involved to go that extra mile in pursuance of what were the objectives of the people of Northern Ireland when they voted as far back as 2 March 2017. They voted for an assembly and an Executive. They voted to not only elect their politicians but to have these politicians work for them at Executive and assembly level. I know there are parties here that could be in a position to exercise a greater degree of influence on the talks and on others and I appeal to them to ensure that the Executive can be re-established and the assembly restored at the earliest opportunity, not least because of the economic and social well-being of the people of Northern Ireland, but also because of the urgency and importance of the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union. I am sure we will have an opportunity to resume debate on these important issues.

Deputy Breathnach made reference to the security assessment of the status of the Provisional IRA. The assessments relate to security issues and not to any political conclusions that might be drawn from them from time to time but it is important that those who have been committed to democratic principles all our lives make one thing clear. This is that the legacy of the Provisional IRA is appalling and those with whom it was inextricably linked cannot shirk their responsibilities with regard to it. Neither is it acceptable on any part of this island for anyone for whatever reasons to seek to retain the substance or indeed the shadow of a gunman in any respect. These assessments raise deeply troubling issues about the legacy of paramilitarism and I know that this important legislation will go some way towards ensuring that the objectives of the Independent Reporting Commission are realised.

I also stress that the Bill gives full effect to underlining the strong importance we all attach to the continued positive developments in politics, society and across the economy of Northern Ireland which, of course, is of great benefit to the people of this island but particularly to communities along the Border area that have been blighted and suffered economic disadvantage. I acknowledge the superior experience and first-hand knowledge of Deputies like Deputies Breathnach and Martin Kenny, whose constituencies are in close proximity to Northern Ireland.

I thank Members for their contributions. In commending the Bill to the House, I refer to the fact that it was my wish, which I know is shared, that we would complete this legislation in its entirety prior to the summer recess. I wish to inform the House that there is all-party agreement in that endeavour and I hope we might be in a position to complete Committee and Remaining Stages during a short period next week, subject to the Business Committee and having regard to the fact that we have had a discussion on the Bill by interested parties on Second Stage, because we are dealing with an international treaty. I do not expect, and I am sure Members of the House can confirm, that we will not have amendments but this is not an issue we can decide now. However, I wish to flag it. I hope the Business Committee will be in a position to table Committee and Remaining Stages in the Chamber for a short period next week. I acknowledge there is cross-party support and agreement to facilitate the passage of this legislation in its entirety prior to the summer recess.

Question put and agreed to.