The Fresh Start Agreement was concluded on 17 November 2015 following 10 weeks of talks co-chaired by the Irish and British Governments and involving the political parties of the Northern Ireland Executive. Among other issues, the Agreement addressed the implementation of aspects of the 2014 Stormont House Agreement along with the additional issue of tackling the continuing impact and legacy of paramilitarism in Northern Ireland.
To facilitate monitoring of the implementation of measures aimed at ending paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland, the Agreement provided for the establishment by the two Governments of the Independent Reporting Commission. An international agreement between Ireland and UK establishing the Independent Reporting Commission was signed in Dublin on 13 September 2016 and it was given effect to by legislation in both jurisdictions allowing for the appointment of the Commission.
The Commission’s functions are to:
- report annually on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland (or on such further occasions as required);
- report on the implementation of the relevant measures of the three administrations – critical here will be the NI Executive’s Strategy to tackle paramilitary activity and associated criminality; and
- consult the UK Government and relevant law enforcement agencies, the Irish Government and relevant law enforcement agencies and, in Northern Ireland, the Executive, PSNI, statutory agencies, local councils, communities and civic society organisations.
The Commission has been actively engaged in carrying out its functions since its appointment, engaging with a range of relevant stakeholders, North and South, including with my Department. I will be meeting with the Commission tomorrow to hear further on its progress with its work. I look forward to the Commission's first report which it is intended will be provided later this year.