Commissioner scored own goal by dodging questions on PIRA's existence
Published 22/08/2015 | 02:30
The incendiary disclosure by the Police Service of Northern Ireland that they believe the IRA had an organisational role in the murder of former Provo Kevin McGuigan is potentially embarrassing for the Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan.
In February, Ms O'Sullivan sent a letter of comfort to Sinn Féin which the party's propaganda machine has milked for all it's worth.
She said that gardaí "have no information or intelligence to support the assertion that the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure".
Ms O'Sullivan's comments effectively discredited the investigative work by Sunday Independent journalist Jim Cusack into the IRA-controlled fuel laundering and smuggling rackets in south Armagh.
The Commissioner was also repudiating solid information from many sources, including customs officers on both sides of the border, local people, the PSNI and her own Garda colleagues.
When she wrote her letter, Ms O'Sullivan should have been aware of the disturbing allegations of sex abuse and Sinn Féin/IRA cover ups by Paudie McGahon which were being investigated by gardaí in Louth.
Sinn Féin, which due to their shared histories never loses an opportunity to discredit An Garda Siochána, was understandably delighted with the Commissioner's letter and has been using it to demonise anyone who dares question the nexus between the party and its terrorist friends.
However, a month after becoming the Shinner's most favourite top cop, Ms O'Sullivan was conspicuously reticent when she appeared before the Dail's Justice Committee.
The Commissioner pointedly refused to give a coherent answer when she was repeatedly asked if she believed that the Provisional IRA still exists.
Senator James Heffernan asked Ms O'Sullivan for a "yes or no answer" to the question in the context of her letter to Sinn Féin.
The senator said it was "frustrating" that the commissioner would not give a simple reply.
Instead, Ms O'Sullivan said: "We will investigate anybody or any group of individuals that are involved in any type of organised crime or terrorism and we will continue to do that."
That is why this week's more direct remarks about the IRA by a senior PSNI officer will cause discomfort for Ms O'Sullivan.
The weight of the words of Det Supt Kevin Geddes that "a major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder" were not uttered lightly and can not be underestimated.
The chilling implication is that after almost 20 years since the ceasefire, the organisation that was supposed to have gone away for good can, apparently, murder at will.
This, after all, comes from a police force that has been emasculated by the complex political sensitivities of the North where they are sandwiched between two political ideologies.
The victims of IRA violence, murder, and rape which took place since the ceasefire have accused the PSNI of putting political imperatives above making the terrorists amenable to the law. The McCartney sisters, whose brother Robert was murdered by an IRA mob in a Belfast pub in 2005, and rape victim Mairia Cahill, who was subjected to a Provo kangaroo court, have all expressed their lack of faith in the beleaguered police force.
But this time there was no obfuscation or demurral from the information in the hands of the PSNI.
Which is why the Garda Commissioner should reassess her force's intelligence-gathering abilities.
The net effect of the years of austerity on our national police force has been a depletion of resources and personnel. Several senior garda officers have spoken to the Irish Independent of their frustration that they no longer have enough officers or squad cars to adequately patrol the border.
Such a scenario may explain why the Commissioner has "no information" about the racketeering Provos who can roam free on the frontier between north and south.
And while there may be a dearth of activity when it comes to investigating supposedly non-existent terrorists, the same can not be said of Ms O'Sullivan's efforts to prevent the media learning of what's really happening from her officers.
One consequence of such an atmosphere of fear-induced silence is that the public will remain ignorant of what is really going on around them - until it is too late.