Last week I responded to a statement from the Northern Ireland Secretary of State where she announced an assessment into the structures of paramilitaries and increased resources aimed at tackling organised crime.
We noted this statement but there are serious doubts over the capacity and commitment of this security service assessment. To move forward we need more than just a briefing that comes from a pop-up body but a real sense that all paramilitary structures including financial, intelligence and military are disbanded and that illicit cash flows and assets are accounted.
The SDLP has never deluded itself or bought any denials about the continued activity of paramilitary groups. The public need assurance that such vestigial networks are not pursuing other criminal channels or being facilitated in doing so. The SDLP called for war on organised crime in November. We raised it during the first round of negotiations at Stormont House. It wasn’t dealt with comprehensively then, it must be addressed now. The scourge of paramilitarism and criminality must be confronted immediately with all available resources.
There should be independent assessment with international input to build public confidence. This review led by and relying on the information of the security services should be treated with caution. It marks a limited approach and obvious questions will be raised. It is not as rigorous as the SDLP had urged. We look to Police services North and South and other law enforcement agencies North and South to best inform our judgement on these matters.
Unionist parties now seem willing to come back to the table. It is time for the political games and preconditions to finally come to an end and for everyone to get down to the business of resolving all of the issues and making these institutions work.