Provo criminals haven't gone away
The Garda Commissioner can say the IRA have gone away - but the truth stands in stark contrast to wishful denials, says Jim Cusack
A TEAM of eight masked men invaded a house in south Armagh earlier this month after an incident in which Garda sources say, a gang associated with the murderers of Detective Garda Adrian Donohoe, had a "run-in" with Provisional IRA fuel launderers.
Gardai believe that the criminal gang - which includes one of the main suspects in the Detective Garda Donohoe murder in January 2013 - was involved in an incident in which a car, stolen in County Monaghan, was being driven to south Armagh for dismantling. There has been a recent spate of such car thefts in the Border area of north Monaghan and Louth.
The stolen car is understood to have crashed into a 'mobile' fuel-laundering lorry, one of the converted lorries used to process agricultural diesel for illegal resale to the general motor trade.
According to Garda sources, following the collision, there was an altercation in which one of the fuel launderers was badly beaten.
Three nights later, the eight masked men arrived at a house in south Armagh and demanded to know the whereabouts of a young man, who they apparently believed was responsible for the assault on the fuel launderer.
The man was not in the house at the time. A young woman who was present was informed that if the man being sought by the gang did not leave south Armagh, he would be killed.
Local sources told the Sunday Independent that the eight-member gang, who forced their way into the house, were "the Provos".
The Provisional IRA, they say, operate a vigilante force in the area, which is known locally as the "P Specials", a derogatory term referring to the old Royal Ulster Special Constabulary, the almost entirely Protestant, unionist force known as the "B Specials".
Gardai and local people say that this vigilante force is seen as the paramilitary arm of the Republican-controlled multi-million Euro fuel laundering and tobacco smuggling operations.
The parents of Paul Quinn, the young south Armagh man beaten to death by a gang of up to 20 men in October 2007, say his killers were members of the Provisional IRA. Gardai agree.
Last week, the Garda Commissioner, Noirin O'Sullivan, in response to a query from Sinn Fein, stated that An Garda Siochana "hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion of (this journalist) that the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confines its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting".
Sinn Fein subsequently posted the Commissioner's statement on social media as proof of "spurious" reports in the Sunday Independent about "republican involvement" in criminal activity. The party said the letter was also "a clear rejection of other allegations, including the disgraceful claim that republicans were poisoning the water system for Dundalk".
In her response, Commissioner O'Sullivan referred to the November 2009 statement of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC), the body set up after the 1998 Good Friday Agreement to report on issues of paramilitary activity and, most importantly, IRA 'decommissioning'. She quoted the IMC report claim that the Provisional IRA "military departments and other structures" were disbanded.
However, the IMC report and the Commissioner's comments do not explain the existing circumstances in south Armagh, where the PSNI still operate as though the North's 'Troubles' are still in full flow.
Crossmaglen police station is a fortress of a type usually only seen in Baghdad or Kabul. The station has a 30-feet-high concrete blast wall. Entry is through a steel plate outer door, which allows access to a security 'air-lock' designed to prevent 'proxy' or suicide bomb attacks.
The main door, which opens only when the outer door closes, is five-inches thick and made of welded steel plate. The roof is also made of reinforced concrete and steel to protect against mortar attack.
The Provisional IRA may, in official terms, have 'disbanded', but the lack of proper policing; the palpable fear of local people of crossing the 'Provos'; the uninterrupted and massively lucrative local organised crime; and the prominence of Provisional IRA shrines indicate that in south Armagh, the IRA has not, in the Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Adams' own words: "gone away, you know".
Following the publication of her letter, the Sunday Independent this weekend asked Commissioner O'Sullivan if she was personally satisfied the Provisional IRA no longer exists or was involved in fuel laundering and cigarette smuggling.
There was no response at the time of going to print.