Wednesday 26 October 2016

This report has blown away myths about the IRA and shaken the accepted wisdom on Sinn Féin

Suzanne Breen

Published 21/10/2015 | 02:30

New report: Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers
New report: Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers

There are dynamite lines in the report into paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland which shakes what has until recently been the accepted wisdom on Sinn Féin and the IRA to the core.

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The IRA, we were told time and time again, are on ceasefire, have decommissioned every weapon they ever possessed, and have ceased to exist.

This report blows away these myths and is much franker and blunter in parts than some cynics, including myself, thought it would be.

The army council, that seven-man body which directed the IRA's campaign of violence throughout the Troubles, not only continues to exist but currently controls Sinn Féin as well - at least that is what the report says IRA members believe.

The report found that other IRA structures remain in place, albeit in a reduced form, including some departments. These are likely to be the Provos' finance, intelligence, and security department among others.

The IRA continues intelligence-gathering on dissident republicans and attempting to identify CHIS, Covert Human Intelligence Sources - informers.

Given that Sinn Féin totally supports the PSNI, plays a full role on the Policing Board and says its signed up to the rule of law, there is no benign reason for the IRA to carry out these functions.

It is the job of the police and intelligence services to pursue republican dissidents, and they have been doing so with huge success in recent times. If the Provisionals are concerning themselves in the business of hunting down dissidents or informers it is for highly dubious reasons.

In recent years, Sinn Féin has supported the role of informers in the fight against paramilitary activity, providing they act within the law. So why would the IRA be actively trying to identify agents?

Given the fate that befell senior Sinn Féin figure and RUC Special Branch agent Denis Donaldson, who was shot dead by republicans at his Donegal cottage in 2006, this revelation has clearly sinister overtones.

The report states that, despite claims that the IRA decommissioned its huge arms cache in 2005, the Provos still retain weapons.

All these disclosures add up to the fact that while the IRA has downsized, it certainly has not disappeared.

Sinn Féin is not just a normal political party, a greener and more militant SDLP or Fianna Fáil

The get-out clause in the document is when it states that, at a local level, IRA activity takes place without the leadership's knowledge or direction.

This would cover murders like that of Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn, and Kevin McGuigan.

But the reality is that 21 years after the IRA ceasefire, the army council has had ample opportunity to close down those at a local level who continue to kill and it has chosen not to.

If that doesn't amount to sanctioning murder, it does amount at the very least to a policy of turning a blind eye to it.

Irish Independent

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