96. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the status of the re-introduction of the paramilitary monitoring commission and the establishment of a cross-Border agency to deal with organised crime, as outlined in the Fresh Start agreement; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [45609/15]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Fresh Start Agreement was established between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Irish and British Governments in November 2015. The Agreement addresses a range of measures relating to the devolved institutions in Northern Ireland.
The new agreement also includes Justice related provisions for a new Joint Agency Task Force, led by police and revenue services, to bring together the relevant law enforcement agencies and better coordinate strategic and operational actions against cross border organised crime. The new Task Force will consist of a senior level strategic oversight group that will oversee the work of an operations coordination group to coordinate front line joint, inter-agency operations and direct relevant resources in that context.
Preparations for the new Task Force are at an advanced stage.
In addition, the Fresh Start Agreement contains cross border commitments on the establishment of a new monitoring and verification body as part of the initiative to end paramilitarism. The Northern Ireland Executive will appoint a three person panel by the end of December 2015. The Panel will be charged with the task of bringing a report to the Executive with recommendations for a strategy to disband paramilitary groups. This report must be presented to the Executive before the end of May 2016 and the Executive is to present a strategy by end-June 2016.
In order to monitor the implementation of the strategy for ending paramilitarism, a four member independent monitoring and verification body, to include persons of international standing, will be established by the UK and Irish Governments. The UK Government and the Irish Government will nominate one member each and the Executive shall nominate two members. This monitoring and verification body will be required to be established and operational in 2016.
We are currently in discussions with the UK Government to advance the formation of the monitoring and verification body.