Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has insisted the Provisional IRA no longer exists, even in a “benign” criminal gang form alleged in recent days, and that his party has “no special responsibility” over recent murders in Belfast.
Mr Adams made his first substantial comments on the escalating row on both sides of the border amid ongoing calls for him to cut short his holidays and answer questions over the affair.
Writing in his weekly column for nationalist Belfast-based newspaper the Andersonstown News, which is re-published in today’s Irish Examiner, the Louth TD insisted “the war is over and the IRA is gone and is not coming back”.
He said “I don’t agree” with the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton’s claim the paramilitary organisation still exists in a criminal gang form — a position also stated by former justice minister Michael McDowell and Northern Ireland secretary of state Theresa Villiers — even in what he claimed is the “benign” version allegedly involved in racketeering and two murders.
Mr Adams said the Sinn Féin leadership has “worked hard” to find “imaginative” ways to “resolve problems” in the peace process, and argued “this problem [criminal acts] is not of our making”.
He said his party “has no responsibility whatsoever for those who killed Kevin McGuigan or Jock Davison”, and accused rival political parties of being “self-serving and short-sighted” in their responses to the murders.
“Sinn Féin and republicans, including the IRA, have taken a series of historic initiatives to create the opportunity for peace, to sustain the process in difficult times and to overcome obstacles.
“Let me be very clear. Once again. Anyone who breaks the law should be held accountable by the justice and policing agencies. Let me be equally clear. Enough is enough. Sinn Féin has no special, or particular or specific responsibility, to respond to the allegations made about the IRA,” he said.
Writing before the Ulster Unionist Party said it is withdrawing from the power-sharing agreement in the North, once again moving the Stormont government into crisis, Mr Adams said “Unionist politicians” have “ignored” the parts of the story “that didn’t fit with their narrative”.
He said this and the decision to “jump on [PSNI chief constable George] Hamilton’s claim the IRA still exists” has simply been done “to ratchet up the crisis”.
Statement from Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan:
An Garda Síochána has been reluctant to comment on matters arising in relation to the investigation by our colleagues in the Police Service in Northern Ireland into the recent murder of Mr Kevin McGuigan as it was considered that it may not be helpful to them to do so.
However, it has been asserted by some that An Garda Síochána has denied the existence of the Provisional IRA. These comments appear to be based on a letter issued by An Garda Síochána to a public representative last February.
In fact, that letter did not deal with the question of whether PIRA continued to exist. Instead it dealt only with a specific question as to whether ‘the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confines its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting’. It was stated in reply that An Garda Síochána held no information or intelligence to support that assertion. That reply was consistent with the findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) and An Garda Síochána’s own assessment of the intelligence. Indeed, the reply went on to cite other findings of the commission, including the fact that some former members of PIRA engaged in crime for personal gain, but without sanction or support from the organisation.
The IMC’s reports concluded, amongst other things, that the so-called ‘”military” departments’ had been disbanded and the former terrorist capability had been lost. The IMC has not indicated at any time that PIRA had ceased to exist; nor has An Garda Síochána.
The position of An Garda Síochána is that there has been no evidence available in this jurisdiction to call into question the assessment made by the IMC.
An Garda Síochána, of course, keeps its security assessments under constant review and continues to do so particularly in the context of its liaison with the PSNI in relation to their investigation into the murder of Mr McGuigan. Our security assessments will continue to be based on credible intelligence, hard facts and emerging evidence.
I will, of course, be informing the minister for justice and equality, as she has requested, of any issues emerging in relation to that liaison in the context of the current investigation.
Down through the years, many members of An Garda Síochána paid the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of the Provisional IRA. It is wrong to suggest that An Garda Síochána would in any way turn a blind eye to the activities of any such organisation.
I am also painfully conscious of the plight of victims of crimes and I can assure them that An Garda Síochána will continue to combat and investigate crime without fear or favour whatever the backgrounds of the people involved.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved