Political news

Mitchell Reiss appointed to body overseeing efforts to tackle paramilitarism

Former US envoy Mitchell Reiss has been appointed to a watchdog overseeing efforts to tackle paramilitarism. Picture by Paul Faith, Press Association
Michael McHugh and David Young

A FORMER US envoy to the north has been appointed to a new watchdog overseeing efforts to tackle paramilitarism.

Mitchell Reiss will be the UK commissioner to the Independent Reporting Commission.

The Irish government has nominated Tim O'Connor, who worked on the north at Dublin's Department of Foreign Affairs.

The Executive's nominees are former Human Rights Commission chief commissioner Monica McWilliams and solicitor John McBurney.

Secretary of State James Brokenshire said: "I am delighted Mitchell Reiss has agreed to accept the position of UK Commissioner to the Independent Reporting Commission.

"His international standing and expertise as a former senior diplomat and special envoy to Northern Ireland will provide strong skills to the body which has been established as one of the Fresh Start commitments to eliminate paramilitarism and tackle organised crime."

PSNI chief constable George Hamilton said last year that the IRA still existed and some of its members were involved in shooting dead a former member.

That sparked crisis in Stormont's institutions, leading to last year's Fresh Start deal, which included plans for the commission. It was established by an international treaty between the British and Irish governments.

The body will report on progress towards ending continuing paramilitary activity and on the Executive's strategy to disband loyalist and republican groups.

The British government is providing up to £3 million to establish and fund the commission over four years. It will begin work in the new year and will report at least once a year until 2021.

The Republic's foreign affairs minister Charlie Flanagan welcomed the appointments.

He said the commission "will have a crucial role in our collective work to deal with the legacy of paramilitarism in society".

"We are all committed to working together in order to help and support communities to move forward with confidence and contribute to a truly reconciled Northern Ireland," he said.

"I am pleased that Tim O'Connor is available to serve as the Irish government's appointee to the Independent Reporting Commission. In his career in the civil service Tim was involved in the peace process over many years and this is experience he can now bring to his work as a commissioner."

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