Saturday 25 February 2017

No room in republic for even a 'withered' IRA

Liz O'Donnell

Liz O'Donnell

A mural depicting SF leader Gerry Adams on the Lower Falls Road in west Belfast
A mural depicting SF leader Gerry Adams on the Lower Falls Road in west Belfast

So, despite what Mr Adams and his colleagues say, the IRA has not "gone away." This is a clear finding of both security reports on paramilitaries released this week. The first from the British Government-appointed panel, made for uncomfortable reading, not only for unionists. This independent group comprising three respected individuals was tasked with carrying out an up-to-date assessment of the extent of activities by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, an exercise prompted by the shock declaration by the PSNI that PIRA members were involved in the murder earlier this year of a prominent republican Kevin McGuigan.

Such a stark pronouncement had spooked the UUP into exiting the Executive, to be followed inevitably but not comprehensively by the DUP who have been boycotting the Executive ever since. So this assessment was of pivotal importance to the status of the peace process and the power-sharing institutions. It was yet another crisis.

When it landed, the report was not short on candour. The three-person panel could not be accused of a convenient politicised finding. On the contrary, in my view, there was enough there to justify DUP leader Peter Robinson staying out of office and collapsing the power sharing Executive. The findings were stark and unadorned. The IRA army council was still in existence, had structures although "much reduced" and used terms such as brigades to describe its hierarchy. PIRA was still in possession of weapons and there have been isolated incidents of violence, including murders. It also found that IRA members are gathering information on dissidents and possible informers.

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