In a statement last night, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams criticised those who he claimed “opportunistically and cynically seized on the killing of Kevin McGuigan in a deliberate effort to undermine Sinn Féin’s mandate” and the peace process.
“The killing of Kevin McGuigan was wrong and those who were involved in it are criminals who do not represent republicanism,” Mr Adams said.
“The so-called group, Action against Drugs, is a criminal gang. It is a mix of criminals and former republicans who have engaged in intimidation and violence in pursuit of their criminal ends,” he said.
“The IRA was not involved. In July 2005 the IRA left the stage. Its leadership ordered an end to the armed campaign; its representatives to ‘engage with the IICD [Independent International Commission on Decommissioning] to complete the process to verifiably put its arms beyond use’ and instructed its volunteers to take part only in ‘purely political and democratic programmes’ and no ‘other activities whatsoever’,” he said.
Meanwhile, thebody representing rank and file members of the Police Service of Northern Ireland(PSNI) has said they hold “great and justifiable concern” about the suspected Provisional IRA link to the murder.
The assessment by commanders in the PSNI that Provisional IRA members were involved in the killing has raised the prospect of a political bid to oust Sinn Féin from Stormont’s power-sharing government.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) described the development as “worrying”.
PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said: “This was a deliberate and measured assessment by the PSNI, conscious that every syllable would be placed under the microscope and weighed and analysed.
“It is a very worrying development if a command structure can be activated at will. Our members view developments with great and justifiable concern.”
A 60-year-old man was arrested earlier in connection with the shooting, the eighth made by detectives so far. The suspect was detained in east Belfast and has been taken to the PSNI’s serious crime suite for questioning.
Detectives have so far charged one man with possessing a weapon with intent to endanger life.
The accused — Patrick John Fitzpatrick, 53, from Lagmore Dale in west Belfast — was remanded in custody at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court on Thursday.
The other six held in relation to the shooting were subsequently released.
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson has indicated he will hold talks with other executive parties about a potential Sinn Féin exclusion from the mandatory five-party coalition administration.