Northern Crisis: No State action on IRA legacy claims

The Government is unlikely to take any specific action to address revelations that the Provisional IRA still exists, despite two damning reports warning the paramilitary force continues in the North, has a criminality “legacy” in the south, and that its army council remains involved in Sinn Féin.

Senior Coalition figures said no “knee-jerk” reaction will take place, despite the publication of two detailed reports highlighting what Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said was the “shadow of a gunman” on either side of the border.

The reports, requested by the British and Irish governments in late summer following comments from Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton over the paramilitary group’s continuation, have made it clear that the provisional IRA still exists in the North and that former members in the Republic “make full use of their reputation” to enter criminality.

Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton
Northern Ireland’s chief constable George Hamilton

The documents, detailed inside today’s Irish Examiner, specifically warn that:

  • In the North, the “structures of provisional IRA remain in existence in a much reduced form”, including “a senior leadership, the army council, and some “departments”.
  • All paramilitary organisations have been involved in murders since the ceasefires in the 1990s;
  • The army council “oversees both the provisional IRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy”.

In the Republic, a separate report drawn up by Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan found that while Provisional IRA structures do not exist in this jurisdiction:

  • A“significant number” of former Provisional IRA members are now involved in organised crime, including 50 who were forced to pay more than €28m to CAB;
  • Former members “continue to associate” and make full use of their “reputations” for criminal gain and do not hesitate to use “terror tactics”;
  • A “residual leadership continues to exist”.

Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan
Garda Commissioner Nóirín O’Sullivan

While both reports said the organisation and its structures have significantly reduced and are committed to the peace process — a key reason why the DUP has chosen to return to the power-sharing government in the North — the long-hinted revelations led to an outcry from senior Government ministers and Fianna Fáil yesterday.

However, despite the reports, the Government is unlikely to take any specific action to address the scandal.

Asked what specific new actions would be taken, a senior Government spokesperson said any “knee-jerk reaction” should not be sought until the reports have been fully digested.

He said the issue was not raised at yesterday’s cabinet meeting, as the reports — one of which the Government had itself sought — were only published that day.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny last night spoke about the findings with Britain’s prime minister, David Cameron, emphasising the need to continue the Stormont talks.

Prime Minister, David Cameron
Prime Minister, David Cameron

However, while noting the Taoiseach’s “determination that cross-border criminality be stamped out” through “ongoing co-operation” between the gardaí and PSNI, no specific new actions were outlined.

Mr Kenny earlier came under Dáil pressure from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who accused him of taking his “eye off the ball”. Mr Martin called for the return of the Independent Monitoring Commission.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin

While Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and deputy first minister in Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness both strongly rejected the reports, Justice Minister Fitzgerald said it is no longer acceptable “to retain the substance or the shadow of a gunman”.

Meanwhile, at a pre- arranged book launch in Dublin, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern called on Sinn Féin to clarify why “the leadership still comes from the army council”, saying: “Maybe it’s best to ask Sinn Féin what the answer to that question is.”

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