Tissue of lies: PSNI's stunning admission that IRA still exists
Provo structures from 1990s ‘remain in place’ Sinn Fein credibility in tatters after revelations
The admission after 10 years of denials and untruths that the Provisional IRA still exists, and is in the frame for another cold-blooded murder, has left the credibility of Sinn Fein in tatters.
Attention now immediately turns to the British and Irish governments, and to Unionist parties in Northern Ireland, following confirmation of the terrorist organisation's continued existence.
The revelation yesterday by PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton, that the IRA still exists is bound to have serious repercussions for the power sharing executive in Northern Ireland.
At a press conference in Belfast related to the murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan, Chief Constable Hamilton said "at this stage we assess that some Provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist".
He added that the Provisional IRA "are not involved in paramilitary activity in the sense that they were during part of the conflict".
This admission now raises disturbing questions about what activities the Provisional IRA are involved in.
Last night, Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams said he did not accept the PSNI revelations about the IRA.
"The war is over. The IRA is gone and not coming back," he said.
But Republican sources in Belfast said that the terrorist organisations was routinely engaged in the gathering of intelligence information and other criminal activities related to the raising of funds.
Fianna Fail Justice spokesman Niall Collins last night said: "An Garda Siochana need to reassess their view on the existence and continuance of the Provisional IRA following the recent murder in Belfast and given the official comments of the PSNI."
However, the family of a murder victim of the IRA, Paul Quinn, who was lured to his death in Co Monaghan in October 2007, last night called on the Garda Commissioner and PSNI Chief Constable to resign. Mr Quinn was one of more than 40 people murdered by the Provisional IRA since it announced a cessation of violence in 1997.
Yesterday, the PSNI chief said that it was his assessment that the Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is "no longer engaged in terrorism".
However, Mr Quinn's father, Stephen Quinn, said: "They murdered Paul. They think they've the right to kill people or do what they want to do to keep power. Everyone knows that. Everyone knows it was them."
The gardai were last night standing over Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's recent statement that the force had no intelligence to suggest the IRA still existed.
A spokesman told the Sunday Independent: "An Garda Siochana has nothing to add to assessments which it has made previously about PIRA insofar as this jurisdiction is concerned and, as there is an ongoing Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into a killing in Belfast, does not consider it would be helpful to make any further comment at this time."
Sinn Fein has consistently claimed that the IRA had "left the stage" in 2005, in what Labour TD Robert Dowds last week said "led us to believe that the IRA no longer exists".
In a statement, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said "undoubtedly persons who had been associated with PIRA" have been involved in criminal activities.
But the spokesman said the department's information had not called into question the general status of PIRA as set out in a series of reports by the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC).
In 2008, the IMC said the IRA had effectively disbanded as an underground army and no longer met for any terrorist purposes.
However, the IMC added that the Provisionals' ruling body, the army council, had not dissolved - a key unionist demand at the time. DUP leader Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland's first minister, had made disbanding the army council a condition for the last step in devolution - t he transfer of policing and justice powers from London to the Stormont assembly.
Yesterday, the DUP's Gregory Campbell said chief constable Hamilton's statement meant the DUP would be seeking urgent discussions with Secretary of State Theresa Villiers over the future of the Stormont administration. However, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said Sinn Fein's credibility was "in tatters" following the shooting dead of former Provo Kevin McGuigan in East Belfast.
The Department of Justice here said it was "obviously important" that the investigation into the killing of Kevin McGuigan by the PSNI should "continue unhindered and that whomsoever was responsible should be brought to justice". Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald is to meet the Secretary of State to discuss security matters and they will "assess matters currently arising" at a meeting they are due to have in the near future.
The chief constable yesterday said: "At this stage we assess that some Provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist." He also said that the IRA still had current members who continued to engage in a range of criminal activity and violence. He said that the continuing existence and cohesion of the Provisional IRA hierarchy had enabled the leadership to move the organisation forward within the peace process.
"Nevertheless, we assess that in common with the majority of Northern Ireland paramilitary groups from the period of the conflict, some of the PIRA structure from the 1990s remains broadly in place, although its purpose has radically changed since this period," he said. Mr Hamilton said he accepted the bona fides of the Sinn Fein leadership regarding their rejection of violence. He also went on to say that the PSNI have "no information to suggest that violence, as seen in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, was sanctioned or directed at a senior level in the Republican movement."
Mr McGuigan, a father of nine, was shot dead on August 12 outside his Comber Court home in the Short Strand area of east Belfast, in what is believed to have been retaliation for the murder of a former IRA chief Gerard "Jock" Davison in May. The Sunday Independent has learned that one of the people of interest to the McGuigan murder investigation lives in Dundalk where he has relatives. Detectives suspect that his house may have been used by the gunmen.