Sinn Féin wounded by IRA crime cash claims
Sinn Féin leader breaks 24-hour silence
Sinn Féin is reeling as pressure mounts for an investigation into allegations the proceeds of IRA crime are finding their way into the political project, following blunt exchanges in the Dáil.
In an astonishing move for a party challenging for power, Gerry Adams was forced to defend his party during Leaders' Questions against claims from IRA members that they believe Sinn Féin is run by the Provo's army council.
Those claims were contained in a review of paramilitary activity in the North ordered by the British government.
The focus has now shifted squarely on to the usage of Provo cash from smuggling and extortion and the proceeds of the Northern Bank raid and whether these are being used to support Sinn Féin activities.
In a sign of how wounded the party has been by the latest revelations of continuing IRA involvement, a Sinn Féin TD resorted to crassly insulting Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin when he raised the threat to democracy in the Dáil.
After refusing to comment on the damning findings of the report on paramilitary activities in Northern Ireland for 24 hours, Mr Adams finally broke his silence. The under-fire Sinn Féin president alleged that the report's findings were little more than "mischief making" by MI5 and the PSNI.
However, the Irish Independent understands there is deep concern at the highest levels of Government over the possible usage of money raised by Provo criminals for political ends.
Last night, Mr Martin called for a new body to monitor paramilitary activities on both sides of the border.
In the Dáil yesterday, he said: "We must ask whether people are absolutely certain that any of the proceeds from the organised crime being committed by alleged individual Provo republicans is not finding its way to the political project.
He referred to the proceeds of the Northern Bank robbery, and urged TDs to check court records from 2010, which show that three members were prosecuted and found guilty of handling proceeds from the Northern Bank robbery.
"One was an unsuccessful candidate for Sinn Féin and the other was a fundraiser for the party. The third member in the courts pleaded guilty and described himself as a republican and Sinn Féin member. My point is that there is form in this respect. People may not like what I am saying, but it happened."
Speaking to the Irish Independent last night, Mr Martin said: "I think there is a legitimate case for a broader investigation. That's why I asked the Taoiseach to consider a joint British-Irish government agency to be established, to be well-resourced to get at this area."
His comments followed an attack on him by Sinn Féin TD Pádraig Mac Lochlainn, who repeatedly called him a "gurrier" during a Dáil debate on Provo activity.
During the heated Dáil session Deputy Mac Lochlainn referred to Mr Martin as "a gurrier", "a political gurrier" and "the prime gurrier in these Houses".
Sinn Féin party members laughed and jeered throughout the debate and Mr Adams called the Fianna Fáil leader "idiotic" for his stance on the power- sharing executive in Northern Ireland.
"That is the type of intimidation that people engage in when they are challenged," Mr Martin responded.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny said he had differences of opinion with Mr Martin but would never "descend to the level" of name calling.
The report on paramilitaries found that PIRA members believe its senior ranks oversee Sinn Féin.
The report also said some PIRA members were involved in "large-scale" smuggling and other forms of criminality including murder.
Gardaí investigating cross- border crime have arrested 50 individuals with links to the PIRA and sought to recover around €28m from the proceeds of crime.
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O'Sullivan yesterday said people who were associated with the PIRA are currently involved in political parties.
However, she said gardaí had no evidence to suggest the Provo army council "continue to meet or continue to exist in the form that was once assumed".
"So in other words, they do not meet to direct military operations and I think that's a very important distinction to make," she said.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald called on Sinn Féin to clearly address the findings in the PSNI and Garda reports on paramilitary activities.
"Clearly the paramilitary legacy has to be addressed and new initiatives will be needed in order to ensure that this legacy is dealt with," Ms Fitzgerald said.