The former Fianna Fáil leader said the group should consider taking advantage of the 1939 Offences Against the State Act, which allows for previously illegal groups to apply to the High Court to become legal organisations once a conflict is over.
Speaking at the weekend after two reports by MI5 and the gardaí found the paramilitary group continues to exist in Northern Ireland, has a legacy of criminality in the republic and that its army council has an over-arching strategy which controls Sinn Féin, Mr Ahern said it would be “unrealistic” for the group to simply “vanish 100%”.
Despite saying on Tuesday evening that Sinn Féin should “answer that question” over the continuation of the provisional IRA and the army council, Mr Ahern told a Sunday newspaper he does not want to “join the bandwagon” and that using the long-standing law may be the best way to address the situation.
“What they should and can do is use the 1939 Offences Against the State act to move into a new mode, and that mode is one they say they’re at, which is a peaceful one supportive of the political process.
“If the IRA really are signed up totally to the political movement and are not doing anything in the south, as the Garda Síochána have made clear, and I believe that, then why don’t they look closely at the 1939 Act and see if they could move across that line?
“I’m saying that in a constructive way,” he said, adding:
“I don’t join with the bandwagon which says the IRA has to vanish 100%. I don’t join with that. I think it is unrealistic to expect the people who fought in the struggle for 30 years to simply go away,” he said.
The comment came as ex-justice minister Michael McDowell, who was also in government when the 2005 decommissioning took place, said republicans are involved in a “clear breach” of the key peace process deal if the Provisional IRA “continues to have access to weapons”.
The former PD leader, who in April hinted at an interest in returning to politics at the next general election, said the ongoing question over the group “has to be rectified” as otherwise if republican paramilitaries are still involved in crime or illegal activities a “serious deception” has taken place.