She rejected questions from rival political parties over where the paramilitary body’s vast warchest has gone since it was officially decommissioned 10 years ago, saying the “blanket assertions” are “cynical manoeuvres” to lessen Sinn Féin’s public support.
She was responding to claims from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin that there are questions over Sinn Féin’s “enormous resources” and news the Garda Criminal Assets Bureau will provide an updated report on where the money has gone.
Ms McDonald insisted there is no link to politics. “I can absolutely guarantee that 100%,” she said, stressing that Sinn Féin is the “most scrutinised” due to the fact its funds are examined in the Republic, in the North’s political system, and in the US where significant fundraising takes place.
There have been ten days of claims over whether the elements of the Provisional IRA still exist and are linked to criminality, after PSNI chief constable Brian Hamilton confirmed last month that this is a line of inquiry into the murders of two men in Belfast.
The issue has led to crunch meetings taking place in Dublin today between Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, and Northern Ireland’s secretary of state Theresa Villiers over the resulting turmoil in the power-sharing Stormont government.
It is expected that potential talks between the five main political parties over how to rescue the situation will be discussed at this meeting.
At the same time, DUP leader and the North’s first minister, Peter Robinson, is to meet with British prime minister David Cameron, while the UUP will officially pull out of power-sharing this afternoon.
Despite the difficulties, Ms McDonald said the issue is not her party’s fault and that the “rhetoric” of recent days “has been utterly irresponsible, completely and utterly over the top”.
She said: “If there is now a sense of crisis around the institutions, that crisis has been created by those politicians who have very crudely played for political advantage.”
Ms McDonald said Sinn Féin’s rivals were “quick to seize on two very brutal murders, two grieving families, to assert their own political position”, and suggested “people need to get real” about the “enormous progress” since the first Provisional IRA ceasefire on August 31, 1994.
She insisted that “the war is over” and stressed that her party believes anyone involved in criminality “must be pursued, apprehended, and prosecuted”, adding that this is part of the “imperfect” but “very robust” peace process in place.
However, when asked about the impact on Sinn Féin and whether it is attempting to deflect criticism by pointing to the need to keep the peace process, Ms McDonald said that “this isn’t me saying, ‘we’re holding the peace process, don’t hit us’”.