There has been mounting expectation in recent weeks the IRA would announce its effective disbandment later this week, once Drumcree and the July 12 parades had passed off peacefully.
However, the internal debate within the Provisional movement has encountered some difficulties especially in the North Belfast enclave of Ardoyne, where there is anger at the decision to return Shankill Road bomber Sean Kelly to prison for an alleged breach of his early-release licence.
The difficulties in Ardoyne have been further exacerbated by sectarian clashes surrounding Orange Order parades in the area. There are concerns there may be further clashes during tonight’s Orange Order parade near Ardoyne.
Government sources told the Irish Examiner yesterday that it has received tentative indications that the IRA will not make its statement until the 20th of this month at the earliest. But they added the rider that, on this occasion, the Provisional movement has conducted its internal debate in great secrecy. Unlike previous occasions where there has been discussion over content, drafting, timing and choreography, contact has been minimal on this matter.
The sources said for that reason it was impossible to gainsay the timing of the statement. While it may take another ten days, the IRA may decide to make the declaration this week.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Pat Rabbitte yesterday responded to reports the IRA would not disband but would agree to follow purely peaceful means in future by saying it was “another weasel-worded fudge”. He said if the IRA did not hold a convention it would mean the “new mode” it offers would be pitifully insubstantial. It would mean the IRA Army Council would be in a position to continue proclaiming itself as “the lawful government of the 32-county Irish Republic of Easter 1916 and as the successor of the second Dáil”. He went on to say that Gerry Adams appeal to the IRA in early April demanded nothing less than an Army Convention to bring resolution to the impasse. Otherwise any proposition made by Sinn Féin or the IRA would “continue to be shrouded in obscurity and obfuscation and will be seen as yet another tactical presentation rather than a fundamental shift in orientation”.
Government sources last night expressed annoyance at Mr Rabbitte’s “premature intervention”, and described it as unhelpful at a time when no statement is yet forthcoming.