IRA ‘must prove it has quit criminality’

THE IRA must give unequivocal and independently verified commitments that it has severed all links with criminality, the Government insisted yesterday.

In a significant upping of the ante for any negotiations, two senior ministers, Dermot Ahern and Michael McDowell suggested that a verification by the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) that the IRA had ceased all criminal activities would now be necessary.

Mr Ahern and Mr McDowell held separate meetings with Northern Secretary Paul Murphy in Dublin yesterday to discuss the political implications of the robbery. It was the first face-to-face meetings between the two Governments since the €32 million raid.

Speaking after his meeting, the Foreign Affairs Minister contended the IRA needed to bring total closure to its “spectrum of paramilitary and criminal activity.”

Referring to the refusal of the IRA to state publicly that it would not engage in any activity that would endanger people’s lives, Mr Ahern said a statement would no longer be enough.

“I can safely say that in any further discussion the bar will be somewhat higher than it was heretofore in this respect.

“Before we can engage again in the type of engagement that we had, we need to be absolutely categorically clear that there’s a complete end to criminality,” he said.

“Obviously, we will have to have independent verification from a body like the IMC,” he added.

Mr McDowell said the fact that the IRA failed to sign up to a simple clause on ending criminal activity spoke volumes. He echoed Mr Ahern’s comments by saying there was no longer room for any ambiguity.

Sinn Féin objected furiously to the setting up of the IMC in 2003. Yesterday, Mr McDowell said the IMC was part of the political process and a body that functions objectively.

Mr McDowell rejected Martin McGuinness’ comments at the weekend that the two Government would be on “dangerous ground” if they discriminated against Sinn Féin.

“I assume there was no threat in it. If there was a threat of that kind, all I can say is that it was a threat that was foolishly made and a threat that will be met head on,” he warned.

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