Garda chief forced into U-turn on IRA stance
■ Commissioner to spend months reassessing Provos' activities
Embattled Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan has finally admitted that the Provisional IRA does exist, in an attempt to address the growing unease over her credibility.
Ms O'Sullivan bowed to major political pressure last night and "reluctantly" released a statement which confirmed her position that the Provos remain at large.
In it, she said: "It is wrong to suggest that An Garda Síochána would in any way turn a blind eye to the activities of any such organisation."
She is now to spend months reassessing IRA activities in the wake of the murder of Kevin McGuigan.
However, the country's top garda has stood by a controversial letter in which she said the force has "no intelligence or information" to support claims that a military structure within the IRA is in existence.
Ms O'Sullivan has been in the eye of a storm this week over her refusal to come out publicly in support of the PSNI's Chief Constable, who warned of an IRA involvement in the brutal murder of Mr McGuigan.
She has now been ordered to produce a report into the status of the IRA, which Tánaiste Joan Burton wants to see before the general election.
Sources told the Irish Independent that the report could take months to complete due to the complexities of the investigation into the McGuigan murder.
The fallout from the chilling re-emergence of the Provisional IRA has pushed the peace process and the Northern Assembly towards the brink of collapse.
A political crisis has now extended to both sides of the Border after the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) announced its intention to walk away from power-sharing as a result of the serious threat posed by the Provos.
UUP leader Mike Nesbitt turned the screw on senior Sinn Féin politicians, who remain in denial about the activities of the IRA.
Government figures here are desperate to prevent Stormont's collapse.