RARE reporting restrictions which bar the media from identifying five people charged with Provisional IRA membership have caused concern to an MLA.
The charges, which have been brought against three men and two women, relate to membership of the Provisional IRA from dates in 1999 and 2000.
Some of those facing charges are understood to be senior “mainstream” republicans.
However, court orders prohibit the media from reporting either the identities or addresses of the defendants.
There are two separate but related court cases and two sets of reporting restrictions.
And the News Letter has a quote from an unnamed Sinn Féin spokesman.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said: “The case and how it is conducted is entirely a matter for the courts.
“It is highly inappropriate for any politician or political party to comment or to interfere with that procedure.”
Which is a welcome, if convenient, change…
Taking the unusual reporting restrictions as a starting point, in the Belfast Telegraph Alan Murray is asking some ‘stupid’ questions.
…why the PSNI charged five republicans with IRA membership relating to a decade ago raises the wider question of where the IRA is now and what it is doing. One security figure put it this way: “The IRA may have been put to bed but it hasn’t gone to sleep”.
What that means is that the IRA is keeping a ‘watch’ on the matters it feels are of importance to it, namely, the activities of the dissident republican organisations and their memberships and ongoings within the PSNI, particularly its intelligence gathering activities.
And who would be surprised if it emerged in due course that the IRA was attempting to infiltrate those sections of the Police Service of Northern Ireland charged with gathering and collating that intelligence?
Today, fortunately, the Provisional hue of the IRAs appears to have no desire to explode bombs and maim civilians but it does harbour a continuing thirst for information.
We hear little officially today of its activities, although we are indebted to Chief Superintendent Roy McComb for a nugget of information when he recently told the Smithwick Tribunal that the IRA was concerned at areas of investigation that the Tribunal was exploring relating to its ‘business’, and that it had attempted to mislead the Tribunal. [added link]
His intimation at its least suggests some sort of troika structure plotting the IRA’s current affairs. We’ll learn more perhaps if further criminal charges are preferred against dormant Provisionals.
Or, perhaps, if convictions are secured…
Needless to say, no attempts at breaching those court orders will be tolerated here.