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Unaccountable and largely unwanted

(Jim Gibney, Irish News)

What do a failed politician, a former CIA man, a former British policeman and a former government official have in common?

They have joined the ranks of people and organisations hell-bent on wrecking the peace process.

What is even more galling about these 'formers' is they are being paid huge sums of taxpayers' money.

Newspaper reports suggest they are paid £600 a day – a day that is, not a week. That is an incredible £3,000 a week; £144,000 a year.

And what are the hard-pressed taxpayers getting for the British government's largesse? Two reports a year that amount to little more than a few thousand words each.

The latest band of peace wreckers is the misnamed 'Independent Monitoring Commission' (IMC) – there is nothing independent about them.

After last week they should be renamed the 'Balderdice' Commission after its chairperson Lord Alderdice. He produced balderdash in their report.

Like so much else about this body we are not told who writes the report, who researches its facts, who exactly provides the information which shapes the report.

We do know that the 'Balderdice' Commission relies primarily on British intelligence agencies and sources therein or thereabouts.

So we can rest easy because after all, the intelligence agencies are bursting at the seams with devotees of the peace process.

Incredible though it seems, the British and Irish governments have handed over the future well-being of an already besieged peace process to this quango.

It is an unelected, unaccountable and largely unwanted body which has become the willing tool for every securocrat, spook and spy who has an axe to grind against the peace process.

All they have to do is communicate to the IMC in some vague way a juicy piece of baseless information such as that which has caused the latest crisis in the peace process. Then just leave it to the IMC. They will do the rest.

You will find out how on page 20, paragraph 3.23 of their report: "We have since received reports not all PIRA's weapons and ammunition were handed over for decommissioning in September. These reports are not able to indicate precisely what is the nature or volume of any remaining weapons..."

Riveting stuff. What intellectual rigour was at work to produce those two sentences? What test of accuracy did the IMC collective apply to the 'received reports'?

What does it all mean? What does a 'received report' amount to? Was the message 'received' by phone, email, text, letter, in person? Did the IMC squad rendezvous at a secret midnight location in a smoked-filled room to 'receive'? They are not revealing.

Maybe it is one of life's mysteries. It just happens. Someone plants an idea in a commissioner's head and before you know it is in the report. No questions asked. Well, none needed.

Contrast this vague, imprecise assertion with what actually occurred last September.

Under the careful scrutiny of five individuals, General de Chastelain, two of his team and two independent eye witnesses, Fr Alex Reid and Rev Harold Good, the IRA put all their weapons beyond use.

De Chastellain meticulously recorded as it happened what the five pairs of eyes witnessed.

He faced the world's press and was cross-examined.

The British, Irish and US governments accepted de Chastelain's report, confirming the IRA had put all their weapons beyond use.

By the way, de Chastelain heard the same report as the 'Balderdice' Commission which led them to claim the IRA withheld weapons. Didn't amount to much, he concluded. Found that out after asking a few relevant questions.

But then if you have spent most of your life trying to defeat republicans and failing, you will find it hard to pass up an opportunity to put the boot into them.

That might just explain the motivation of the one-time leader of the Alliance Party, the one-time head of London's anti-terrorist Special Branch and a man who was in the CIA for over 30 years.

For the British and Irish governments and other fans of the IMC, hoisted by your own petard comes to mind.

February 10, 2006

This article appeared first in the February 9, 2006 edition of the Irish News.

This article appears thanks to the Irish News. Subscribe to the Irish News