Britain says a new expert panel will report on the activities of the Irish Republican Army and other outlawed paramilitary groups as part of efforts to heal the rift in Northern Ireland's unity government.

The Cabinet minister responsible for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, unveiled the panel Tuesday as multi-party negotiations sought to sustain the British territory's 8-year-old coalition of British Protestants and Irish Catholics.

The IRA in 2005 declared it had renounced violence and disarmed in support of power-sharing. Protestant leaders are threatening to end cooperation with the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party because of police assessments that IRA members killed a former Belfast comrade last month.

Villiers said the three-member panel would produce their report by mid-October detailing "the structure, role and purpose" of the IRA and other paramilitary groups.