The gardaí’s “fresh assessment” of the Provisional IRA will depend entirely on what the PSNI investigation into the murder of former paramilitary Kevin McGuigan reveals, it has emerged.
The Irish Examiner understands that any reappraisal of the gardaí’s current view — that the PIRA does not exist as a paramilitary body — will be determined by whether or not the PSNI believes the murder was “sanctioned” at an organisational level.
The Garda assessment of the status is not expected to involve any wider investigation of the organisation on this side of the border.
It comes as Sinn Féin yesterday accused Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald of “casting political smears” by questioning whether the party benefited “from the proceeds of crime”.
The minister raised the issue as she announced that she had asked the gardaí to conduct a “fresh assessment of the status of PIRA in light of any new evidence emerging” from the PSNI investigation.
Security sources said the assessment will depend on whether or not the PSNI believes the murder was an “organisational act” by PIRA or a criminal act involving PIRA members.
“It will boil down to this,” one source said, “is the murder sanctioned or not sanctioned? If not, it is a murder — a criminal act. If it was [sanctioned] then it’s a paramilitary act and that’s a different ballgame.”
Ms Fitzgerald said the key question was whether there was “any Provisional IRA structure” behind the murder.
Last week, the lead PSNI investigator into the fatal shooting of Mr McGuigan, detective superintendent Kevin Geddes, said they believed a criminal gang calling itself Action Against Drugs was responsible.
He said this group had a “criminal agenda” and was separate to the PIRA. But he added it was his belief that “people who are members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder”.
Chief Constable George Hamilton subsequently said there was currently no evidence that the murder was sanctioned within the PIRA.
He said the PIRA did exist as an organisation, but not for paramilitary purposes, and was “committed to following a political path”.
He said some current members, and former ones, were engaged in crime and violence “in the interest of personal gain or personal agendas”.
PSNI officers yesterday arrested a 47-year-old man in connection with the murder, bringing to 11 the number of arrests to date.
Ms Fitzgerald said there was “no doubt” people associated with the PIRA have been “and continued to be” involved in serious crime.
She said there was a responsibility on Sinn Féin to make sure there was “no place” in the party for people involved in serious crime.
She questioned if the party had taken every step to be “100% sure” they have “not benefited in any way from the proceeds of crime”.
In a statement on behalf of his party, amid growing calls for leader Gerry Adams to cut his holidays short to face questions, Brian Stanley TD said the justice minister may have “breached the code of conduct for office holders”.
“Sinn Féin does not benefit from any form of criminality,” he said.
The son of the only prison officer murdered in the Republic during the Troubles has said Sinn Féin’s claims that the Provisional IRA does not exist are a “blatant lie”.
Austin Stack issued the claim after revealing he and his brother Oliver were driven to an undisclosed location in a blacked-out van two years ago to receive a Provisional IRA statement admitting the organisation’s role in their father Brian’s 1983 death.
“My brother and I actually met the IRA [in 2013], so for Sinn Féin to now claim they went away after the ceasefire is a blatant lie,” he said. News: 4
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