Confusion as PSNI say IRA Army Council exists... but gardai say 'not on their side of the border'


Kevin Doyle and Niall O'Connor

Gardai have stood over claims that the Provisional IRA’s Army Council no longer exists – despite statements to the contrary in a PSNI/MI5 assessment released by the Secretary of State Theresa Villers earlier today.

The garda review of the PIRA states that there is “no evidence” that the council is functioning in this jurisdiction.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has released the contents of the report which she sought in the wake of the murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast last August.

“The assessments, of course, relate to different jurisdictions and can be expected to vary in their details.  Historically, the nature of PIRA in this jurisdiction differed from how it manifested itself in the North,” Ms Fitzgerald said.

Earlier Ms Villers told the British Parliament that the Army Council still exists but in a “much reduced form”.

Her report, which was jointly drafted by the PSNI and MI5, states that the PIRA has access to weapons and mare involved in criminal activity such as large scale smuggling and isolated incidents of violence, including murders.

She said the report made for “very uncomfortable reading”.

However, the Garda report says there is no evidence of ‘military departments’ in the Republic.

It adds: “There is clear evidence that a significant number of persons who have been associated with the PIRA remain criminally active, particularly in organised crime, and continue to associate together”.

“They make full use of their ‘legacy’ reputations and in some cases their former terrorist tactics.”

However Gardaí have found no evidence that criminality is directed by leadership of the organisation.

In a statement Ms Fitzgerald said: “Taking that into account, and inevitable differences of phrasing, there is very substantial common ground in the findings.  Most importantly, there is a common assessment of the reality of the security threat posed by PIRA.”

Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan has told the Justice Minister that she accepts fully the assessment made by the PSNI and British Security Service in relation to PIRA in their jurisdiction.

The Minister said both assessments “raise deeply troubling issues about PIRA and the legacy of paramilitarism”.

Ms Fitzgerald said the legacy of the PIRA was dissident republicans who “seek to emulate a culture of lawlessness which the PIRA tried to create in the border areas and the consequences of that are seen in tragic events even to this day”.

“A second aspect of the Provisional IRA’s brutal legacy is the involvement in organised crime of a significant number of people who have been associated with PIRA, who, as the Garda Commissioner, points out, are involved in organised crime, make full use of the reputations which they acquired as members of PIRA and do not hesitate to use their previous terror tactics.

"These people will continue to be pursued relentlessly,” the minister said.

The garda assessment notes that since the establishment of the Criminal Assets Bureau in 1996, a total of €28m has been collected arising from actions and assessments in respect of over 50 individuals who have had connections or associations to PIRA in the past.

In a letter accompanying the review, Garda Commissioner O’Sullivan said it was never the position of An Garda Siochana that the PIRA had disbanded.

“It is to be expected that the pace and nature of developments in different jurisdictions might vary and that differently graduated pictures may emerge. I am confident that there are no overall differences of substance in relation to our assessment of the reality of any threat posed by paramilitary or terrorist groups.”

Taoiseach Enda Kenny discussed the situation with British Prime Minister David Cameron during a 15 minutes this evening.

A spokesperson for Mr Kenny said they noted the separate assessments contained in the reports published today and agreed that the fact that the assembly is reconvening tomorrow is very welcome.

They discussed the need for the talks in Northern Ireland to increase in pace and yield results as soon as possible. This includes Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and the other parties addressing the issue of paramilitarism from tomorrow.

The Taoiseach told the Prime Minister that he was determination that cross border criminality be stamped out and referred to the importance of the ongoing cooperation between the Gardai and PSNI.