IMC on PIRA – The bad news

Now, the bad news. Discuss.Previously: IMC on PIRA – The good news

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3.19 There are however a number of less satisfactory indicators both of the behaviour of PIRA as an organisation and of the conduct of some of its members. We referred in our last report to intelligence gathering. We believe that the organisation continues to engage in it, and has no present intention of doing otherwise. This is an activity which we believe is authorised by the leadership and which involves some very senior members. While some of it may be for defensive purposes, it is predominantly directed towards supporting the political strategy. It involves among other things the continuation of efforts to penetrate public and other institutions with the intention of illegally obtaining or handling sensitive information. This raises the question of whether the commitment to exclusively democratic means is full and thorough going, or whether there remain elements of a continuing subversive intent going beyond the boundaries of democratic politics, a matter we addressed in paragraph 8.13 of our Fifth Report 10. The organisation continues to accumulate information about individuals and groups, including members of the security forces, though as we indicate above we do not think there is any intent to mount attacks. We also think that the organisation remains concerned about the potential for action by dissident republican groups and that it continues to monitor their activities, as it does those of some drug dealers.

(Footnote) See paragraph 8.13 of the Fifth Report, which set out the following questions. How does Sinn Féin now view the claim made by PIRA to be the lawful government and representative of the people in Ireland North and South? Does the party seek power in Ireland North and South using paramilitary muscle to back its participation in the political process? Does it ultimately intend to participate fully in democratic politics, and to observe all the standards that requires, but to reach that position maintaining for the time being some form of slimmed down military capability? Or is it now ready to ensure that PIRA ends all forms of illegal activity and to engage whole heartedly in democratic politics and in policing?

3.20 Despite the instructions to which we refer above, the occurrence of at least 6 unreported assaults has come to our attention. These have mostly been the spontaneous result of personal disputes and have been without leadership authority or planning, though in the process some can carry with them the aura of PIRA threat. We believe the attack on Jeff Commander in September and the associated intimidation was undertaken by current and former PIRA members unsanctioned by the central leadership. Exiling has not been lifted and some relocation of people who are seen as troublesome individuals and families continues. PIRA has used other methods of exercising community control such as “naming and shaming” and we believe the organisation has encouraged members to engage in community restorative justice as a means of exerting local influence. There are thus some signs of an organisation which wants to maintain its traditional role within its communities. It does not yet appear ready to change its long standing opposition to the PSNI though the attitude on the ground is variable and appears often to depend on local circumstances or personalities; in some cases there are clear indications of a growing community readiness to engage with the police.

3.21 There are indications that in some areas PIRA units have been closing down criminal operations and clearing stocks of contraband goods, and we have no reports of PIRA sanctioned robberies in the period under review. However, members and former members of PIRA continue to be heavily involved in serious organised crime, including counterfeiting and the smuggling of fuel and tobacco11. As in the past, we are not able to say confidently to what extent the substantial proceeds of crime are passed to the organisation.

3.22 PIRA continues to raise funds and we also believe that it looks to the long term exploitation of the proceeds of earlier crimes, for example through the purchase of property or legitimate businesses. Some senior members are involved in money laundering and other crime. Money has become a key strategic asset. There has been some restructuring in the finance department, possibly in reflection of the changing circumstances. PIRA also seems to be using experts and specialists able to assist in the management of illegal assets.

(Footnote) Overall, taking the activity of paramilitary and other organised crime as a whole, there appears to be no diminution in the amount of these illegal goods.

3.23 We referred in our previous report to the significant act of decommissioning reported by the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) on 26 September 2005. We have since received reports that not all PIRA’s weapons and ammunition were handed over for decommissioning in September. These reports are not able to indicate precisely what is the nature or volume of any remaining weapons but suggest two things: first, that there is a range of different kinds of weapons and ammunition; second, that the material goes beyond what might possibly have been expected to have missed decommissioning, such as a limited number of handguns kept for personal protection or some items the whereabouts of which were no longer known. We recognise that if these reports were confirmed the key question would be how much the PIRA leadership knew about these weapons. These same reports do not cast doubt on the declared intention of the PIRA leadership to eschew terrorism. For our part, we are clear that this latter is their strategic intent.

3.24 We understand that the IICD has made a report to the two Governments and gather that they intend to publish it at the same time as this report. Over the coming period we will examine any implications that the IICD report or any other developments may have for our work.

3.25 To sum up, the position is not entirely straightforward. We see a number of definite signs of the organisation moving in the direction indicated in the 28 July statement. We see other signs which we would describe as neutral and some which are more disturbing. For example, some members continue to be engaged in significant crime and occasional unauthorised assaults. Whereas these assaults are not in our view sanctioned by the leadership, and may be directly against its wishes, the contrary appears to be the case with some other criminal activities such as the exploitation of financial assets PIRA had previously acquired or the illegal gathering of intelligence. The indications that PIRA appears to retain long term intentions to gather intelligence is also in our view a matter for concern. On the other hand we believe there is a clear strategic intent to turn the organisation on to a political path and there is good evidence that this is happening even given such constraints as there may be on the leadership in this regard.

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