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AN ARDS and North Down politician has slammed an international monitoring body for refusing to answer his questions about the IRA.

The council had insisted that the Independent Reporting Commission, which was jointly set up by the governments of the UK and Ireland in 2017, hand local politicians details of IRA command activities.

The Commission is tasked with investigating the continuing impact of both republican and loyalist paramilitaries on communities across Northern Ireland, as well as finding ways of reducing the grip paramilitaries from both sides still hold on modern society.

At the behest of TUV councillor Stephen Cooper, however, the council wrote to the IRC asking if ‘the IRA council still directs Sinn Fein policy and strategy’. An IRC official wrote back stating that the international watchdog is ‘not an assessment body’ and its members ‘do not make detailed security, threat or status assessments of the various paramilitary groups’. “The IRC’s mandate is to report on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland,” said the official, adding that it also monitors measures and strategies developed by the governments of the UK and Ireland to tackle paramilitarism.

That angered Mr Cooper, who lashed out at the Commission for not giving him the IRA information he’d wanted. “I wish to record my disgust at the pathetic response from a toothless and incompetent body filled with individuals of a like mind,” said the TUV man, during a council meeting last Wednesday night.

His views were contrasted by councillor Ray McKimm, who said: “I see the great work [the Commission does] in ridding us of what I choose to call not paramilitaries, but organised crime gangs. “Their continued work is very much appreciated and certainly has an impact on this community.”

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