A former Minister for Justice has claimed the British and Irish governments deliberately allowed the provisional IRA continue "as an unarmed and withering husk".
Michael McDowell - who was minister for justice when the IRA announced it had stood down in 2005 - said both governments felt this was the preferable rather than risk a dissident group filling the void left by its disbandment.
Writing in today's 'Irish Times', Mr McDowell said both governments had a "clear political calculus" for allowing this to happen.
Looking to the history of the republican movement, Mr McDowell said it was possible for dissidents to fill the void left by the "treacherously" disbanded Provisional IRA.
It was felt an "inert" IRA would become a "harmless grouping" like the old IRA and was the lesser of two evils, Mr McDowell explained.
The two choices faced by the government was between an IRA that became an "inert, unarmed and withering husk" or an "open goal opportunity for dissidents to reform".
Mr McDowell entered the fray four days after PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton said the IRA exists as an organisation, but it not on a "war footing" or existing for paramilitary purposes.
Mr Hamilton's comments prompted a storm of controversy - leaving the future of Stormont in some doubt. However, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said he did not accept Mr Hamilton's comments, insisting the IRA had left the stage some time ago.
Labour has come out strongly against this assertion.
On Monday night, Tánaiste Joan Burton said it is clear that communities are still at risk from an organisation linked to "murder and racketeering".
And she claimed assertions by the gardaí and the PSNI that the IRA is no longer involved in terrorism is of "little comfort" given the threat posed by the group and its criminal members.
"This is an insidious threat to Northern Ireland's future as a healthy, stable democracy, and therefore a threat to the whole of this island," Ms Burton said.
Yesterday it emerged Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has ordered Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan to carry out an urgent report into the activities.
This move comes several months after Comm O'Sullivan denied the Provos' existence - now she has been ordered to carry out a reassessment.
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