He hinted his support for such a move during a tense leaders’ questions debate in the Dáil, dominated by revelations of the Provisional IRA’s continuing existence in Northern Ireland.
The debate also focused on the Provos’ crime “legacy” in the Republic and claims of money finding its way into Sinn Féin’s accounts.
The Taoiseach, who on Tuesday had failed to respond to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s call for such a group to be set up, told his political rival yesterday the issues raised in the MI5 and Garda reports into the Provisional IRA’s existence “must be responded to”.
However, while not making the call himself, he strongly indicated he would not be opposed to such a measure as a well-resourced cross-border unit involving both governments, along the same lines as collaborative efforts to tackle fuel and cigarette smuggling as recommended in response to the Stormont talks.
Mr Kenny, who was criticised yesterday for not putting in place any specific measures other than already planned fresh talks to respond to the provisional IRA reports’ findings, stressed he is “open” to the option on five separate occasions during yesterday’s debate.
The position, welcomed by Mr Martin and which Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams argued his party had previously suggested to tackle dissidents, came during a leaders’ questions debate fraught with tension.
In a series of hard-hitting claims, Mr Martin had been heckled by Sinn Féin’s justice spokesperson Pádraig MacLochlainn who told the Fianna Fáil leader he was a “political gurrier” and “more hard-line than MI5 or the DUP — you’re worse than the DUP”.
Mr Martin had said the reports highlighted a “fundamental question for our republic”.
He also said there was a “threat to democracy from an organisation involved with politics but which retains a military structure, with an active intelligence gathering department and access to weaponry”.
“We must ask whether people are absolutely certain any of the proceeds from organised crime being committed by alleged individual provo republicans is not finding its way to the political project. I do not say that lightly,” he said.
Mr Adams, meanwhile, said elements of the reports’ findings have been “seized upon by opponents of Sinn Féin”.
Along with others, he said, they had “paid a high price” with bomb threats at their homes and other attacks.
Criticising Mr Kenny for “weasel words” which had ‘welcomed’ Mr Adams’ focus on peace, the Sinn Féin leader said: “We are wedded to democracy”.
However, Mr Kenny hit back, asking: “Is Paudie McGahon wrong? Is Mairia Cahill wrong?”