Senior cabinet ministers have rounded on Sinn Féin, insisting it has questions to answer following revelations the provisional IRA still exists and telling party leader Gerry Adams the “point of ambiguity” over his past “is long gone”.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, Environment Minister Alan Kelly, and Jobs Minister Richard Bruton took the hardline approach as it was strongly suggested a new cross-border group funded by the British and Irish governments may be set up to tackle connected crime.
Speaking after assessments by MI5 and the gardai concluded the structures of the provisional IRA remain in the North in some form, that a legacy of crime continues in the South, and that the supposedly decommissioned army council oversees both the provisional IRA and Sinn Féin, the Government figures said now is the time for honesty.
While Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams strongly rejected the claims and said the row is “contrived” and “utter nonsense”— despite admitting the army council still deals with “legacy issues from time to time” — Ms Fitzgerald said the view is no longer tenable.
Speaking beside Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan in Athlone, Co Westmeath, Ms Fitzgerald said “Sinn Féin have questions to answer” over the revelations and warned the legacy of the Troubles remains a “living legacy”.
She said despite Mr Adams providing “the same answer” over his own past for decades, the “point of ambiguity” over whether he was ever involved in the organisation is “long gone”.
She said there are “very serious issues in relation to criminality” along the border which need to be tackled, adding that “clearly both reports need addressing by Sinn Féin” so that “there is no ambiguity”.
Jobs Minister Richard Bruton and Environment Minister Alan Kelly raised similar concerns at events in Dublin, with the Fine Gael TD saying “Sinn Féin have to respond to this” and Labour’s deputy leader stressing the reports show there are clear “linkages” between Sinn Féin and the provisional IRA.
While Taoiseach Enda Kenny held back on the controversy while speaking at a jobs launch event yesterday morning, only saying talks to save the Stormont government must conclude by the end of November, speaking in the Dáil he said the underlying issues behind the dual reports must be addressed.
Asking Mr Adams “is Paudie McGahon wrong, is Máiría Cahill wrong?” Mr Kenny said he is “open” to setting up a “well-resourced” cross-border organisation with the British government to tackle ongoing criminal activity linked to paramilitaries after Fianna Fáil raised questions over whether this money is finding its way to the “political project”.
The proposal is understood to be one of a series of options being examined by ongoing cross-party talks in Northern Ireland which are being attended by Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan and junior minister Sean Sherlock and will specifically address legacy issues linked to all paramilitary groups today.
While a number of individuals involved in the discussions said options are simply being put on the table at this stage, they said it is unlikely the potential cross-party group will be an Independent Monitoring Commission-type organisation and will instead resemble “Patten Mark 2” or a “declaration” by all parties to focus on only peaceful actions.
One individual involved in the discussions confirmed last night the issue of trust between the parties, but said the DUP’s involvement in the talks shows while fallout from the reports is significant it can be resolved.
Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams insists the findings of Tuesday’s two reports have been “seized upon by opponents” and that the party is “totally and absolutely opposed to criminality”.
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