Thursday 23 May 2019

Provos pose an ‘insidious threat’ - Tánaiste

Labour leader warns of IRA danger after 'weak' responses from Fine Gael and the Garda Commissioner

Joan Burton
Joan Burton

Niall O'Connor

Fine Gael's weak position on the re-emergence of the Provisional IRA has been further exposed after it was left up to the Labour Party to warn of an "insidious threat" now posed by the criminal organisation.

Tánaiste Joan Burton last night 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.

The remarks by the Labour leader came as some Fine Gael TDs said they were somewhat miffed by the apparent weak response from Cabinet members, especially Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

And unease is growing within political and garda circles over the continued failure by Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan to endorse remarks by her PSNI counterparts that IRA structures remain in place.

Ms Fitzgerald released a statement last night amid accusations that she has been "soft" on the threat now posed by the re-emergence of the IRA.

The future of the Northern Ireland Assembly remained in doubt last night as a result of the revelations of an IRA involvement in the brutal Belfast murder of Kevin McGuigan.

And the admission by the PSNI's Chief Constable George Hamilton that the IRA remains at large, echoed last night by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, has left Sinn Féin's credibility in tatters.

Sinn Féin health spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin yesterday described Mr Hamilton's remarks as "wrong" and "misinformed" and accused other political parties of trying to "thwart the development of Sinn Féin".

But the chances of Sinn Féin persuading any party to form a Coalition in the South have been dealt a hammer blow due to its claim that the IRA has "gone away" and was not involved in the McGuigan murder.

Labour deputy leader Alan Kelly yesterday put the spotlight on Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams, describing his claims that he was never in the IRA as "laughable".

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said the events of recent days have shown the "interchangeability" of Sinn Féin and the IRA.

"The murders of the last two to three weeks have, if you like, removed the veil, exposed the reality of what actually is the situation in terms of the IRA and Sinn Féin, the interchangeability of its members and its offices in regard to supporting the political project that is Sinn Féin," Mr Martin told 'Today with Keelin Shanley'.

Jobs Minister Richard Bruton said the revelations by the PSNI are deeply worrying.

"From my own point of view, I think it undermines the ability of Sinn Féin to participate fully in any government when it is in that arena and I think it needs to deal with that," he said.

But the intervention by Ms Burton will lead to questions within Fine Gael over the apparently weak response from its own justice minister.

Ms Fitzgerald last night reiterated her support for the PSNI's position that the IRA still exists.

"There is no place in any democracy for any ambivalence by anyone about the rule of law," Ms Fitzgerald said.

"It is clearly the case that recent developments have raised concerns which need to be addressed fully in the light of any evidence that may emerge," she added.

But she has remained deeply loyal to the Garda Commissioner, whose claims previously that there is no intelligence to suggest the IRA maintains its structures raised eyebrows within the force.

Limerick Fine Gael TD Patrick O'Donovan said there needs to be a "meeting of minds" from security forces and politicians both North and South.

He said this includes the Garda Commissioner, who should "clarify her position" in relation to the IRA's existence and structures.

Irish Independent

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