The Good Friday Agreement noted that the development of a peaceful environment in Northern Ireland should lead to a normalisation of security arrangements and practices.
Following the IRA statement of July 2005 committing itself to exclusively peaceful means, the British Government initiated its planned security normalisation programme which had previously been agreed with the Government as part of the Joint Declaration of April 2003. In the context of a continuing enabling environment, this committed the British Government to a number of measures, including the removal of army watchtowers, the vacation and closure of all but 14 army bases and the reduction in troop levels from over 13,000 to 5,000. Related link: Secretary of State publishes normalisation plans, Monday 1 August 2005
These normalisation measures are currently being implemented, as confirmed by the Independent Monitoring Commission, with a completion date of 31 July 2007.
Independent Monitoring Commission
In order to allow for the independent verification of progress achieved in ending paramilitary activity and normalising security arrangements, the two Governments agreed to establish an Independent Monitoring Commission on 7 January 2004 to produce regular reports on both issues.
In order to address the problem of contentious parades in Northern Ireland, an independent Parades Commission was established in 1997. Although most marches pass off peacefully each year, a number of contentious parades have given rise to serious public order incidents and adversely affected community relations in a number of areas. The Government has consistently supported the role of the Parades Commission in this sensitive area, while making clear its position that the best solution in each case would be local accommodation through substantive, sustained and genuine dialogue without preconditions and based on mutual respect.