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ANALYSIS: Report signals return to business as usual

The much-anticipated report told us nothing new

IF the contents of the monitoring report came as a shock, then either you haven't been paying attention recently or you've deliberately been sticking your fingers in your ears.

Before Kevin McGuigan's murder on August 10 the consensus among those who kept an eye on such matters was that the Provisional IRA, UVF and UDA still existed.

Fuel laundering and smuggling along the border clearly involve individuals associated with the mainstream republican movement, while in the recent past various UDA and UVF factions have been responsible for shootings and murder.

But although the report appears to serve little purpose in further illuminating the activities of paramilitary groups, it nonetheless has a key political role.

As well as establishing an up-to-date benchmark on an aspect of the peace process that in recent years have been conveniently overlooked, most crucially it has created the basis for a return to ‘business as usual’ at Stormont.

Theresa Villiers had barely sat down after delivering her statement in Westminster when the DUP announced that its ministers were re-entering office after six weeks of hokey cokey, in-out shenanigans.

The fact that they didn’t even tease us for 24 hours with a ‘will they or won’t they?’ dance is a clear illustration that Peter Robinson’s resignation-renomination policy ranks among the most ill-thought out, time-buying initiatives ever to emerge from Dundela Avenue – eclipsing even the Unionist Forum and last year's graduated response.

Mr Robinson was quick to point that all is not immediately rosy in the Stormont garden and the ‘big two’ have a fortnight to sort out their differences, as the institutions remain in grave danger.

And despite its stating-the-obvious theme, the report does not provide the process with an entirely clean bill of health.

The peculiarly-worded line about IRA members ‘believing’ the army council plots an ‘overarching strategy’ will no doubt be seized upon by the Ulster Unionists to justify their continued boycott of the executive.

Yet the report’s assertion that there’s been no IRA recruitment or weapons procurement since 2011’s final IMC report goes some way to supporting Bobby Storey’s butterfly metaphor.

Moreover, there was nothing to indicate that the McGuigan murder had been sanctioned.

Notably, the report also shines a light on oft-neglected loyalist paramilitarism and shows that it hasn’t gone away.

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