Paramilitarism remains a “stark reality” in Northern Ireland and continues to be a “serious obstacle to peace and reconciliation,” a report said Monday.
The report by the Independent Reporting Commission – a measure of a deal dubbed the Fresh Start Agreement between the U.K. and Ireland – pointed to “the political vacuum in Northern Ireland and the continuing uncertainty regarding Brexit.”
“Alongside the increase in the number of deaths and attacks and other disturbing events linked to paramilitary organisations in the last year, the task of ending paramilitarism has become immeasurably more difficult,” the commissioners said in a press release.
They said ending paramilitarism can only be done sustainably by combining “policing and justice responses alongside systemically tackling the serious socio economic deprivation facing the communities where the paramilitaries operate.”
The recent violence in Northern Ireland includes the murder of journalist Lyra McKee by dissident republicans in Londonderry in April by dissident republicans.
Ian Ogle, a community worker, was killed in east Belfast in January, in an incident linked to loyalist group the Ulster Defence Association (UDA).
A courthouse was also targeted by a car bomb in Londonderry in January, in an attack claimed by the New IRA.
The 1998 Belfast Agreement – also known as the Good Friday agreement – largely saw the end of Troubles-era violence in which more than 3,500 people lost their lives.
IRA splinter groups remain active in Derry, Northern Ireland.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic has been one of the thorniest issues in Brexit negotiations between the U.K. and the EU.
A revised deal agreed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU officials saw the backstop clause removed before the government paused the relative bill and called for a Dec. 12 election.
Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU in 2016 referendum, and it is feared that the Brexit process could trigger further enmities in the region.
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