Wednesday 13 December 2017

Provisional IRA is still in existence complete with the ‘army council’ - independent report

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers
Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers

Kevin Doyle and Philip Ryan

The Provisional IRA is still in existence complete with the ‘army council’, an independent assessment has found.

Northern Ireland’s Secretary of State Theresa Villiers revealed today that the leadership of all the main paramilitary groups from the Troubles are still in existence.

She said that the assessment read for “depressing reading” and backed up the views of PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton who linked the murder of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast in August to the PIRA.

Sinn Féin has insisted that the PIRA no longer exists.

But Ms Villiers said that while the PIRA is not involved in terrorism they are linked to “large scale smuggling” and isolated incidents of violence.

She said, while decommission took place between 2001 and 2005, PIRA still has access to weapons but is not actively recruiting new members.

“However, the assessment judges that PIRA has not organised procurement of new weaponry in the period in the last International Monitoring Commission (IMC) report in 2011,” Ms Villiers said.

“While the assessment states that PIRA members believe that the provisional army council oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy, it judges that this has a wholly political focus”

The report says that PIRA members have been directed to actively support Sinn Fein within the community, including electioneering and leafletting.

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the report makes for “sobering reading”.

"While acknowledging that these paramilitary organisations no longer represent a terrorist threat, it nonetheless presents a complex and challenging profile of unacceptable residual activities by various groups in Northern Ireland which are damaging to communities and which must be addressed,” he said.

 "The assessment underscores the critical importance of the political Talks process currently underway in Northern Ireland.  These talks, which were convened to protect the power sharing institutions, are focussed on addressing the impact and legacy of paramilitarism and fully implementing the Stormont House Agreement.  Today’s assessment by the PSNI and the British Security Services will, I hope, provide fresh momentum in the Talks process.”

Mr Flanagan said that 21 years on from the first paramilitary ceasefires all the parties involved in the Stormont House Talks have “a duty of care to the people of this island to bring an end to the remaining blight of paramilitarism in communities”.

“ It is incumbent on all political parties involved in the Talks to urgently engage on this critical issue and, together with the British and Irish Governments, to agree outcomes that provide lasting peace and political stability in Northern Ireland,” he said.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness responded to the report saying Sinn Féin is the “only organisation involved in the Republican struggle and in Republican activism”.

“Republicans who support the Good Friday Agreement support the political institutions, support the peace process and don’t represent a threat to anyone in the community,” he added.

“There are of course enormous and urgent issues to be dealt with around the existence of armed groups, paramilitaries and criminality.”

Democratic Unionist ministers who resigned from the Stormont Executive in the wake of an IRA linked murder are to return to office following the publication of the review.

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