Wednesday 28 September 2016

Voters more concerned about housing than any links to IRA, say TDs

Published 23/10/2015 | 02:30

Peadar Toibin
Peadar Toibin

Sinn Féin TDs have claimed constituents are not concerned by the findings of a damning independent review of paramilitary activity which linked the party to a terrorist organisation.

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A survey of every member of Sinn Féin's parliamentary party by the Irish Independent garnered just five replies from party members seeking to defend their party.

It comes in the wake of claims that IRA members believe that the army council oversees Sinn Féin.

Those who replied - including former IRA gun-runner Martin Ferris and convicted bombmaker Dessie Ellis - said they disputed the findings of a PSNI and MI5 report which found the PIRA still exists and its members think the terror group influences Sinn Féin strategy.

Sligo/North Leitrim TD Michael Colreavy, Meath West's Peadar Tóibín and Senator Kathryn Reilly were the only others to respond.

Apart from Mr Tóibín, the Sinn Féin members gave almost uniform responses to the survey which sought their personal opinion on the latest scandal to engulf their party in the run-up to the General Election.

The three TDs and one senator said that they did not accept the PIRA still existed or that members were instructed to actively support Sinn Féin, including electioneering and leafleting.

They also did not accept that PIRA members believe the Provisional Army Council oversees both the PIRA and Sinn Féin with an "overarching strategy".

Electorate

Responding to the third question - asking what they say to constituents who are concerned about alleged Sinn Féin links to terrorism - the politicians said that their electorate were more concerned with other issues such as housing, health and education.

Mr Ferris, who welcomed home Garda Gerry McCabe's killers when they were released from prison under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, said: "I can totally reassure them that my party is not controlled by any organisation other than the party membership."

Mr Ellis said his constituents "know who Sinn Féin are and they know we are on their side".

Mr Tóibín dismissed the report as just an "opinion by M15 and the PSNI".

"MI5 is not a judicial organisation but a non-transparent force active in Ireland for 100 years," he said.

"Some of these same military intelligence organisations falsely claimed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which led to the Iraqi war and hundreds of thousands of deaths."

Ms Reilly said she would like to assure her voters that she was a "person capable of independent thought" and was not under the control of "any organisation beyond the democratic bodies of the party".

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has also dismissed the report despite previously saying he has confidence in the PSNI.

Irish Independent

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