Is the Provisional IRA still active in Northern Ireland?

The murder of a former member has raised questions

 

Northern Ireland’s power-sharing executive stands once again at the edge of collapse, following revelations that the Provisional IRA is potentially still active.

It comes following the murder last week of Kevin McGuigan, a former member of the IRA, who was shot outside his home in Belfast’s Short Strand area. The police had warned him that he was at threat following the killing in May of former IRA commander Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison in May.

In the wake of McGuigan’s murder, DUP first Minister Peter Robinson warned of serious political repercussions if it was established that the Provisional IRA was involved. Yesterday, such repercussions took a step forward following comments by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

Speaking to reporters, detective superintendent Kevin Geddes said of the murder:

“There has been considerable speculation about motive and responsibility. The Police Service does not deal in speculation. I have to deal with hard information, intelligence and facts. A main line of enquiry in this investigation is that Kevin McGuigan was murdered by individuals seeking revenge for the murder of Jock Davison in May.

“Part of this main line of enquiry is that a group which calls itself Action Against Drugs (AAD) was closely involved in the murder.”

Crucially, he continued:

“On 6 August AAD stated that it intended to ‘execute’ the killer or killers of Jock Davison. Our assessment is that AAD is a group of individuals from a variety of backgrounds – some criminals, some violent dissident republicans and some former members of the Provisional IRA who have formed into a dangerous, possibly murderous, grouping in order to pursue their own criminal agenda. T

“This criminal agenda includes extortion and violence against the nationalist and republican community.”

The reference to the Provisional IRA has led Peter Robinson to openly speculate about the potential for Sinn Fein to be excluded from the power sharing executive at Stormont, a move that would bring down the devolved institutions.

Speaking following the police news conference Robinson explained:

“The basis upon which the DUP entered government with republicans was a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means through support for the police, the courts and the rule of law as well as the dismantling of the structures of their terrorist organisation. That remains the basis upon which parties serve in the executive.”

He continued:

“To ensure that dealing with this issue is pursued in a manner which attracts the widest possible consensus we will have discussions with other parties about tabling the necessary exclusion motion in the Assembly and asking the secretary of state (Theresa Villiers) to intervene in circumstances where the evidence points to the IRA being involved.”

It is understood that before the Assembly at Stormont returns from its summer recess next month, the DUP will seek a further update from Chief Constable George Hamilton to establish his conclusions on who was responsible for the murder, and on the potential role played by republicans associated with Sinn Fein.

In an effort to distance Sinn Fein from the murder, deputy first minister Martin McGuinness yesterday tweeted:

“The people who murdered Jock Davison are criminals. Those who murdered Kevin McGuigan are also criminals. They must be brought to justice.”

His words were echoed by one of the party’s MLA’s, Gerry Kelly. Confirming that the party would also be meeting with the police to discuss the murders, Mr Kelly called for all sections of the community to co-operate with the investigations. He went on to describe the murders as “wrong and nothing to do with republicanism.”

If it is proved that the Provisional IRA was involved in either or both of the murders, all these conciliatory words from Sinn Fein will do little to prevent the inevitable collapse of the devolved bodies in Northern Ireland.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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