The so-called Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) is reported to have stated that the Provisional IRA is still engaged in “intelligence-gathering” in its latest report, which has been handed to the Dublin and London governments.

The IMC collates briefings from the Six-County PSNI police, the 26-County Garda and Britain’s MI5 -- agencies which have long equated political research by republicans with “gathering information for terrorist purposes”.

Ahead of its publication Sinn Féin angrily dismissed the panel which includes three former intelligence chiefs as “a tool of British securocrats hostile to the development of the peace process”.

According to reported leaks, the IMC report will also again make allegations of IRA-linked “criminality” but will allow that such activity may not have been authorised by the IRA.

The IRA announced last July that it was calling a halt to its activities and was fully disarming, statements which are expected to be largely confirmed in the report.

However, journalists have been briefed by government officials that the report will not lead to the DUP’s Ian Paisley opening contacts with Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams for the first time.

The DUP, which holds its annual conference in Belfast on Saturday, now seems sure to reject any engagement with Sinn Féin in talks due next week on the implementation of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Meanwhile, there is still no indication that the two governments have a plan to advance the peace process until April, when the next IMC report is due.

Sinn Féin MP for Newry & Armagh, Conor Murphy said the IMC’s sources were “the same people who engineered the collapse of the political institutions in 2002”.

He said the IMC was operating “entirely outside the terms of the Good Friday Agreement”.

“It is attempting to exercise a veto over the democratic rights and entitlements of people on this island and the time has long since passed to end the negative role this body plays in the wider peace process.

“Given the make-up of the IMC their reports and recommendations are politically loaded, discriminatory and they subvert the democratic rights of the electorate who voted for the Agreement.”

Sinn Féin Chief Negotiator Martin McGuinness said that the leaks were the latest attempts to undermine the peace process.

“The fact is that the securocrats who were out briefing the media last night are the same people on whose word the IMC bases it reports - MI5 and PSNI Special Branch (C3). It is a completely farcical situation.

“This is only one of many political briefings we have had over the last few months all designed to undermine attempts to get the political institutions back up and running.

“The governments have stated their determination to move ahead. They shouldn’t allow intelligence agencies with a vested interest, either inside or outside of the IMC, to derail that work.”

Last night, Dublin’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern played down the importance of the IMC report, to be published tomorrow.

“The IMC made it quite clear publicly that it would probably never be able to give a clean bill of health,” said Mr Ahern, who was speaking in Brussels.

“You can’t expect that when you turn on a light that everything will be rosy in the garden. It would be naive to think that you can do that after 35 years of violence.”

The Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said he had not seen the IMC report, but that he hoped it “will show that incrementally we’ve made progress across all areas since the last report in September.” In relation to allegation of IRA “criminality”, he said it was “more difficult” but in that things were “not as clear cut” because it was more difficult to establish whether those involved were still in the Republican Movement or acting on orders.

It would be “unfair to focus” on any specific finding on this issue at the the expense of an overall finding of significant progess.

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© 2006 Irish Republican News