Minister wants Garda chief to carry out 'fresh assessment' on IRA
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has ordered a review into the activities of the IRA, in a move that will place major pressure on the Garda Commissioner.
Ms Fitzgerald yesterday told Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan to carry out a "fresh assessment" into the IRA's structures, following confirmation that the criminal organisation remains in operation.
Major political controversy has unfolded after the PSNI confirmed an IRA involvement in the brutal murder of Kevin McGuigan in East Belfast.
In a fresh twist yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald was issued a 900-word statement on the IRA's re-emergence.
While insisting its military capabilities have been "lost", Ms Fitzgerald finally admitted that people connected with the IRA "continue to be associated with serious crime".
"There is no doubt that people who have been associated with PIRA (the Provisional IRA) have been - and continue to be - involved in the most serious crime and neither Gerry Adams nor Sinn Fein can wash their hands of responsibility for that.
"It is an inevitable legacy of the brutal campaign which PIRA waged," Ms Fitzgerald said.
She also challenged Mr Adams to apologise for the IRA's legacy.
However, in one of her most significant moves to date, Ms Fitzgerald ordered a "fresh assessment" of the IRA's structures.
"I have asked the Garda Commissioner to liaise closely with the PSNI and carry out a fresh assessment of the status of PIRA in the light of any new evidence emerging during the PSNI investigation into the death of Mr McGuigan."
The move has placed enormous political heat on Ms O'Sullivan because of a letter she sent earlier this year which denied the IRA's existence.
Asked to clarify her position last night, a spokesman for the Garda Commissioner told the Herald: "The position remains the same.
"An Garda Siochana has nothing to add to assessments which it has made previously about PIRA, insofar as this jurisdiction is concerned.
"As there is an ongoing Police Service of Northern Ireland investigation into a killing in Belfast, An Garda Siochana does not consider it would be helpful to make any further comment."