Former Alliance Party leader John Alderdice has resigned from the party after admitting he was still an Alliance member, two years after his appointment to the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission.
Sinn Féin said his resignation was a further blow to the commission, which the party said should be scrapped.
The IMC is a government-appointed body which reports on IRA activity to the Dublin and London governments based on information received from state forces on both sides of the border. Its highly controversial reports have been used to justify sanctions against Sinn Féin and are used by unionists to call for the party’s exclusion from peace efforts.
After Sinn Féin questioned Lord Alderdice’s continued Alliance Party membership, lawyers for the commission disclosed last Friday that he had resigned from the moderate unionist party.
In their letter last Friday, the IMC’s lawyers stated that Mr Alderdice “does not believe that there is in the public mind any perception of him being biased against Sinn Féin, or any other political parties in Northern Ireland.
“Nevertheless... Lord Alderdice has decided that to put the matter beyond peradventure, he has resigned forthwith his formal and inactive membership of the Alliance Party.
“This is on the basis that there may be a perceived risk of bias should a claim be made to the IMC under Article 6 of the International Agreement, either against the Alliance Party or by it. It is for this limited reason he has decided it is appropriate to resign from the Alliance Party.”
The letter from the IMC’s legal representatives declared that there is “no new material which would render Lord Alderdice’s position as an IMC Commissioner untenable”.
Sinn Féin’s legal representatives are currently pursuing a judicial review in London against the commission’s legitimacy.
Newry and Armagh MP Conor Murphy said yesterday: “The IMC was established outside and in breach of the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is a tool for the securocrats and the opponents of change. It is not and never has been independent. It is politically biased, has a clear anti-Sinn Féin agenda, and its procedures are flawed.
“Sinn Féin has met with the IMC on a number of occasions and challenged each of the members of the commission on their political bias, their lack of independence and their failure to employ any of the normal standards of proof required of other tribunals or similar bodies.”