herald

Monday 5 December 2016

IRA criminality is now too brazen for Commissioner or Minister to ignore

Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan with Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan with Minister Frances Fitzgerald.

The murder of former Provo Kevin McGuigan has truly put the political cat among the pigeons North and South.

For most people this crime has revealed that, after years of denials and half-truths, the grim and disturbing reality is that the Provisional IRA (PIRA) is still very much in existence.

Last weekend the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, confirmed the fact when he stated that "some PIRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist".

However he went on to say that members were not involved in paramilitary activity in the way that they were during the Troubles.

However days earlier PSNI Det Supt Kevin Geddes, who is leading the hunt for the killers of McGuigan, stated that he believed members of the PIRA were involved in the murder.

That statement is deeply disturbing and worrying for governments on both sides of the Border.

Personally, I never believed the assurances of Gerry Adams back in 2005 when he said that the PIRA had "left the stage".

In 1995 the same Adams issued his infamous warning that, despite its ceasefire, the IRA "haven't gone away, you know".

I never really believed that they had gone away, of course.

Since its cessation of active hostilities in 1997 it is reckoned that members of the PIRA have murdered up to 40 people, among them Robert McCartney in Belfast in 2005 and Paul Quinn in Co Monaghan in 2007.

I, for one, remain convinced that the operational and command structures of the PIRA - including its Army Council - remain intact, if dormant.

Despite decommissioning, it is also apparent - not least from the McGuigan killing - that PIRA members still have access to an array of deadly weapons in arms dumps that were never revealed.

Given all this, I am deeply puzzled by the Garda Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan's statement earlier this year that her force "hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion... that the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure."

This assessment is clearly at odds with PSNI statements last week, remarks that O'Sullivan has remained silent about.

Minister For Justice Frances Fitzgerald's soft response to the matter has hardly engendered confidence either.

It's clear that in efforts to protect and nurture the Peace Process and support the Stormont Assembly the Irish and the British governments have turned a blind eye to crimes of murder and other acts committed by the PIRA.

In the last 20 years the PIRA has become a massive criminal enterprise, engaged in murders, punishment beatings, money and fuel laundering, smuggling, extortion and protection rackets.

The murder of McGuigan has opened up a Pandora's box. The PIRA's behaviour has now become too brazen to ignore.

It's time our Government and An Garda Siochana faced up this.

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