They haven't gone away you know, Commissioner
Published 21/10/2015 | 00:00
The revelation that the IRA army council still exists and has not gone away, despite the strenuous claims of Gerry Adams and his cohorts in Sinn Féin, is alarming.
But equally of serious concern is that the two reports reveal several disparities between the two security services, who, we are constantly being reminded, enjoy the closest of close cross- border co-operation.
The report by the PSNI/MI5 presents as a frank and honest depiction of paramilitary groups while the one from An Garda Síochána presents as a watered-down fudge.
It appears to be reliant on previous reports by the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) ... which were completed 10 years ago.
The PSNI/MI5 report seems to tell it like it is. The Provisional IRA and its army council still exist - although in diluted form - and is believed to be pulling strings in Sinn Féin.
"PIRA members believe that the PAC (Provisional Army Council) oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy," the British report states.
This disclosure is all the more disturbing in the context that Sinn Féin is determined to make huge gains in the next election and get into government here.
It is even more worrying to note the soft-focus Garda report bizarrely references Sinn Féin only by mention of a "particular political party".
It claims to have no intelligence that the army council meets in the Republic.
Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan states it has never been the "position of An Garda Síochána that PIRA has disbanded and, accordingly, ceased to exist".
This comment is perplexing, especially in light of a letter of reply sent by the Commissioner to Sinn Féin earlier this year regarding stories by journalist Jim Cusack about IRA racketeering.
It is important to remind ourselves of the content of that letter in light of yesterday's new disclosures.
Cusack had written extensively that the illegal trade in smuggled cigarettes and fuel laundering in South Armagh was the IRA's main source of income. He stated that the Provos still retained a military structure.
This is what the Commissioner said to Sinn Féin: "An Garda Síochána hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion of Mr Cusack that 'the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confines its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette-smuggling and counterfeiting.'"
A few weeks later at the Dáil Justice Committee, she refused to say whether she believed the IRA army council still existed.
This prompted Senator James Heffernan to express his frustration that the Commissioner would not give him a straight answer.
"They either exist or they don't. In certain areas, they certainly do exist and they are there right in their faces," the senator protested.
It is difficult to quibble with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin yesterday when he slammed the Government for taking its eye off the ball over to the activities and existence of the IRA and its relationship with Sinn Féin.
The murder last week of Garda Tony Golden again focused attention on the spectre of the lawless bandit country of south Armagh.
Gardaí have told the Irish Independent that there is no Irish policing presence on the border with the most lawless geographical area in western Europe.
What Garda HQ and the Government seem to be missing here is that the very existence of the Republican sub-state of south Armagh is having a deeply corrosive effect on quality of life for people living south of the imaginary line on the map.