Saturday 22 October 2016

Justice Minister asks gardai to carry out 'fresh assessment' of IRA structures

Published 25/08/2015 | 12:42

Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent 13/7/2015
Frances Fitzgerald, TD, Minister for Justice Picture credit; Damien Eagers / Irish Independent 13/7/2015

JUSTICE Minister Frances Fitzgerald has requested An Garda Síochana to conduct a 'fresh assessment' of the status of the IRA in light of the brutal Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan.

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Ms Fitzgerald today insisted that the Provisional IRA remains on an 'exclusively political path' and that its militarily and terrorism capabilities have been 'lost'.

But for the first time, the justice minister clearly admitted that people connected with the IRA “continue to be associated with serious crime”.

In a lengthy statement, the Fine Gael politician said she has directed the gardaí to assess the status and structures of the IRA in conjunction with the PSNI’s investigation into the McGuigan murder.

Ms Fitzgerald has been criticised by both the Opposition and even privately within Fine Gael over her weak response to the controversy to data.

But her statement this morning – which reveals her belief that figures associated with the IRA still present a threat – represents a cleat climbdown by Ms Fitzgerald.

Read more: 'No one is surprised the Provisional IRA still exists' - Northern Ireland’s Theresa Villiers backs PSNI claims

More significantly, her demand for a review to be carried out by the gardai into IRA structures heaps huge pressure on under-fire Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan.

Ms O’Sullivan will now be expected to come out in full support of her Northern counterparts and their claims that IRA structures are in place.

She will also come under pressure to withdraw a letter she sent to a Sinn Féin politician earlier this year which said the gardaí has no “intelligence” of an IRA presence.

Garda sources have expressed unease about the letter, which was sent to Donegal TD Padraig MacLochlann.

Read more: Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald claims Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan and PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton share same view on Provisional IRA

Ms Fitzgerald’s statement today came after Labour leader Joan Burton described the threat by the IRA as “insidious”.

The justice minister said: “There is no doubt that people who have been associated with PIRA have been - and continue to be - involved in the most serious crime and neither Gerry Adams nor Sinn Fein can wash their hands of responsibility for that.  It is an inevitable legacy of the brutal campaign which PIRA waged.”

Ms Fitzgerald questioned whether Mr Adams apologise for the legacy of the IRA.

“And it is fair to ask Sinn Fein how they intend to address a legacy they are responsible for. It is a legacy of evasion which was bound to have people suspect a ballot box in one hand and sleight of hand with the other,” she said.

Read more: Defence Minister Simon Coveney says claims Provisional IRA members are involved in criminality a 'real concern'

“Will Gerry Adams apologise for the dreadful legacy of crime and lawlessness left in the wake of the brutal campaign which PIRA waged and say what steps he takes to ensure there is no place in Sinn Fein for people who engage in serious crime?  

"Calling for “calm and measured judgements”, Ms Fitzgerald said it is important not to cause any difficulties for the already under pressure Northern Assembly."

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