IMC on PIRA – The good news

First, the good news. Discuss.Previously: IMC on CRJ


Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)

3.13 We pointed out in our Seventh Report that of the period then under review all but one month had preceded the very significant PIRA statement of 28 July 2005 and that it was therefore too early to be drawing firm conclusions. We reported that there had been no evidence of recruitment or training after the statement, although there had been before; that there had been only one unreported instance of the use of violence after the statement, and that about a week after; that there were indications of changes in the organisation’s structure; that the picture on exiling was mixed.

3.14 This report is therefore the first to be focused solely on the period since the July statement. We understand that we are assessing what is likely to be a difficult period for PIRA. We referred in our Fifth Report to the statement made in April 2005 by the President of Sinn Féin and we said that if he were able to develop those ideas and to deliver as he then appeared to suggest he would have demonstrated leadership of a high order. The PIRA statement of 28 July spoke of ordering “an end to the armed campaign”, of volunteers being “instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means”, and of their not engaging “in any other activities whatsoever”. It said that PIRA units had “been ordered to dump arms” and that PIRA would “engage with the IICD so as to verifiably put its arms beyond use”.

3.15 The organisation took a major initiative in its statement and the subsequent significant act of decommissioning. Though it is strongly led and firmly disciplined 16 there are bound to be some differences of view, and it is not an easy task to bring everybody to full and lasting acceptance of the role pointed to in the statement. Leadership in these circumstances may take pragmatic decisions or deliver messages which are not fully clear or consistent. Like an oil tanker, the organisation will take a while to turn completely, and there is likely to be added turbulence in the wash as it does so. It would not therefore surprise us if the picture at this stage, while positive overall, was somewhat mixed.

3.16 There are a number of signs that the organisation is moving in the way it had indicated in the July statement. Although some other signs are at best neutral and a few are more disturbing, most are in a positive direction. We are of the firm view that the present PIRA leadership has taken the strategic decision to end the armed campaign and pursue the political course which it has publicly articulated. We do not think that PIRA believes that terrorism has a part in this political strategy. It has issued instructions to its members about this change of mode, and has engaged in internal consultation to support the strategy. There has been some press comment about possible changes in the membership of the Provisional Army Council but these remain unconfirmed. The leadership sets high store on unity and on avoiding the movement of people to dissident republican groups – which we do not think has happened in any significant way. It appears generally though not universally to have maintained authority over its members.

3.17 While in at least some areas its level of visibility may have lessened considerably PIRA has not disbanded (indeed, it issued a New Year statement on 6 January 2006). However some important and welcome internal changes are taking place. We believe that the organisation as a whole is being deliberately restructured to something more suited for the times and no longer designed for terrorist purposes.

3.18 There are other indications of how the leadership is seeking to bring about this transition. We have no evidence of recruitment for paramilitary purposes or of paramilitary training, though non-paramilitary briefings appear to continue. We believe that currently there is no intention to target members of the security forces for the purposes of attack. We have no evidence that PIRA has carried out any authorised paramilitary attacks in the period under review in this report. The PIRA leadership has given instructions that members should not be involved in rioting. The involvement of local PIRA members in rioting in Kilcoo following PSNI searches as part of the investigation of the Northern Bank robbery was therefore contrary to those instructions. PIRA members have been instructed to offer their services to Sinn Féin and to pursue political activities, as was indicated in the 28 July statement.

Next: IMC on PIRA – The bad news

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