The IRA is gone and not coming back, insists Storey
The senior republican whose arrest over an IRA-linked murder escalated the political crisis in Northern Ireland has accused unionists of trying to wreck power-sharing.
Sinn Fein northern chairman Bobby Storey and two other well-known republicans were taken into custody on Wednesday. They were released without charge on Thursday night.
But during the period they were being questioned by detectives, Stormont's First Minister Peter Robinson stepped down and three of his Democratic Unionist ministers quit the Stormont coalition Executive.
The DUP's mass resignation threat and subsequent walkout was prompted by the three arrests, amid claims that the investigation into the shooting of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan had reached into the senior levels of Sinn Fein.
The Ulster Unionists pulled out of the Executive last month, claiming that trust in Sinn Fein had been destroyed.
Commenting publicly on his arrest for the first time yesterday, Mr Storey said: "I absolutely reject the attempts of the unionist parties to cynically use these murders and my wrongful detention to threaten these political institutions.
"The behaviour of the unionist parties, who have cynically used my arrest to pull down the political institutions, has been nothing short of disgraceful.
"They have succeeded only in holding the political process to ransom and providing encouragement to the dissident elements and the criminals who murdered Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan."
During the event in west Belfast, Mr Storey repeatedly insisted that the IRA was no more - at one stage evoking the metaphor of a butterfly.
"The IRA have gone, the IRA have stood down, they have put their arms beyond use, they have left the stage, they are away and they are not coming back," he said.
"There is no current status of the IRA, there are no current IRA members - the IRA have gone."
But DUP MP Gregory Campbell said he did not believe Sinn Fein's denials about the IRA.
"Bobby Storey is like Gerry Adams and a growing list of republicans whom people in the unionist community simply don't believe," he said.
"Whilst Storey says the PIRA is gone, the Chief Constable, the Secretary of State and a host of others disagree. Republicans are threatening devolution."