Even if he serves for another 20 years PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton will not make a more welcome statement than the one he made on Saturday afternoon saying he believes the Provisional IRA is committed to politics and is not engaged in terrorism.
That Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan shares that view is encouraging too. Those statements contain a challenge though — can we really believe, no matter how we want to, that they are entirely plausible?
The old car-bombing, kidnapping, murdering PIRA may have “left the stage” but a residue of the organisation is active in crime as was confirmed by Mr Hamilton. These criminals may not be controlled by the Provo leadership that negotiated the ceasefire but they exist and are active in communities they once suggested they existed in only to protect.
The suggestion that the nascent peace process could not be jeopardised by shining too bright a light into the darkest corners of the PIRA’s post-ceasefire activities is plausible too. In hindsight it may have been unwise to agree, tacitly at least, to turn a blind eye to these activities in return for something dressed up as a ceasefire. One evil was replaced with another.
These are dark and murky waters but one niggling truth persists — the PIRA may not exist as it did but surely former Provos know enough about former colleagues turned gangsters to help the police on both sides of the border to bring their activities to an end? They can’t have it both ways.
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