Coalition cowers in face of new IRA threat
Justice Minister fails to back up PSNI statement that Provos are back in action
The Coalition is denying a threat is posed by the re-emergence of the Provisional IRA, despite serious concerns raised in Northern Ireland about the return of the republican murder machine.
Adopting a soft line, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has claimed the Provisional IRA does not exist as a terrorist organisation - in the face of mounting pressure over the activities of the Provos.
Ms Fitzgerald weighed in behind Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, who has insisted gardaí have no intelligence to suggest the PIRA still maintains its structures.
The comments follow the shock admission by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton that the IRA still exists, with some members involved in serious criminality.
However, confusion persists over the status of the group and the level of intelligence available to the authorities. Crucially, Ms Fitzgerald did not go so far as to actually acknowledge the organisation still exists, as the PSNI claims.
In a statement to the Irish Independent, the Department of Justice said the position in relation to the status of the PIRA was complex, but added: "Undoubtedly, persons who had been associated with PIRA have been involved in criminal activities."
The department insisted An Garda Síochána and the PSNI were of the same view on the matter.
However, the PSNI has been far clearer in outlining its belief that the structures of the PIRA remain in place.
Fresh concerns were raised last week after the Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan, thought to be revenge for the earlier death of former IRA man Gerard 'Jock' Davison.
While the Government has been slow to denounce the return of a potential paramilitary threat, in Northern Ireland the controversy has brought the Stormont Assembly to the brink. Senior figures in the Democratic Unionist Party insist if the IRA is still intact, then Sinn Féin must be excluded from power.
Speaking in Louth yesterday, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: "The killings of Jock Davison and of Kevin McGuigan were wrong. Those involved do not represent republicanism. They are not the IRA. The IRA has gone away, you know."