Fine Gael minister calls for IRA report before election
A second Cabinet minister has called for the garda report into IRA activity to be published before the general election.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said he would like to see the report, currently being prepared by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan, finalised as soon as possible.
Mr Bruton yesterday expressed deep concern about the prospect of Provisional IRA structures still being in place in light of the remarks made by the PSNI's Chief Constable George Hamilton.
And the Fine Gael politician launched a renewed attack on Sinn Féin, a party he says cannot support many of its claims with hard facts.
"I think Sinn Féin have to prove by their actions that they mean what they claim to say," said Mr Bruton.
"That has always been the difficulty that Sinn Féin has had over a long period. They have been able to have a very strong PR line but often it isn't validated by the facts. Clearly, that disconnect has to be resolved and I think that's a challenge for Sinn Féin.
"From my point of view, any connection with a paramilitary organisation, where structures may still be in place, that is not acceptable in a democratic environment," he added.
Speaking at an event in Dublin, Mr Bruton backed calls this week by Tánaiste Joan Burton for the report into the status of the IRA to be published before the general election.
"This is a serious situation and it needs to be resolved as quickly as possible," Mr Bruton said.
The decision by a second Cabinet minister to lay down a time frame for the report will heap further pressure on the Garda Commissioner.
But a garda source insisted Ms O'Sullivan would not be influenced by remarks of ministers in relation to the time frame of the report's publication.
As revealed by the Irish Independent, the report could take several months because it hinges on the progress of the PSNI investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
The murder, potentially carried out by members of the IRA, has sparked a major political storm that has now left Stormont on the brink of collapse.
Ms O'Sullivan was ordered to conduct the review by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Sources say that if the PSNI probe reveals that those behind the murder received a command from senior IRA quarters, the position of An Garda Síochána in relation to the status of the IRA could change.
The commissioner moved to end days of disquiet over her credibility on Wednesday night after she finally revealed that she believes the IRA exists.
But Ms O'Sullivan is standing over a controversial letter sent to Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn in February, in which she said she had no intelligence that IRA military structures were in place.
Mr Mac Lochlainn had written complaining about an article written by 'Sunday Independent' journalist Jim Cusack about IRA activity in the border region.
"An Garda Síochána hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion of Mr Cusack that 'the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confines its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette-smuggling and counterfeiting," the letter stated.