The Irish Examiner picks up on comments by Sinn Féin TD, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, in questions to the Taoiseach on Northern Ireland in the Dáil yesterday – after Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, said “we do not need a structure like the army council of the Provisional IRA.” Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin response was
Will the Taoiseach, Deputy Kenny and others not consider for a moment that this is exactly what dissident republicanism want them to do? Will they ponder the possibility that the IRA, in whatever way it exists today, represents a bulwark against dissident advance in many areas on this island, not least of all in the Border counties in the North?
In the course of the statements in the House on the murder of Paul Quinn, I made the point that if the peace process is to work and the Good Friday Agreement is to be implemented for the benefit of all communities, we do not need a structure like the army council of the Provisional IRA. I made that point based on evidence given to me by people living across a broad swathe of the south Armagh Border region where, on a continual basis, punishment beatings are being carried out in apparent accordance with that particular structure. Does the Taoiseach agree this is something that should be abandoned? I would love to get a letter from P. ONeill indicating that such a decision was taken in the light of being serious about the development of the country from here on.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s response, on that particular point, was
As I said yesterday, the building blocks of bringing devolution of policing and justice to Northern Ireland is local involvement and participation by communities. That is the best way of bringing an end to such activity for ever more and of getting away from having any types of paramilitary groups, power groups, heavy gangs or whatever new umbrella they devise. I get reports from time to time of groupings that are still operating on that type of heavy gangs basis. Whether they are doing so with any authorisation – which I am told by intelligence they are not – or doing it off their own bat, it is not a good thing and we must see the end of it. It is not unreasonable, ten years on, that we should see the end of this once and for all. The best way of achieving this is through proper local policing in these areas, so that we bring back a level of normality. If we do not do that, we will continue to have these sporadic events by either side, whether in loyalist areas or republican strongholds. We must try to get away from that and anything that helps in this regard is welcome. I do not want to dictate to any organisation how it should move into the future other than that I want to see it moving into the future.
Later in the debate, Labour TD, Eamon Gilmore, sought a clarification of what Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin had meant by “a bulwark against dissident advance”
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I have a brief question for the Taoiseach since the Ceann Comhairle told us Opposition leaders cannot ask questions of each other. What does the Taoiseach understand Deputy Ó Caoláin to mean what he says the Provisional IRA is acting as a bulwark against dissident republicans? Does he know what that means and does he agree with that assessment?
The Taoiseach: I think I have already answered that and I have taken the same line. Perhaps Deputy Ó Caoláin meant to put it slightly differently.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: I though the Taoiseach was the only one who had that problem.
The Taoiseach: Since I have to try to chair the Opposition—–
The Taoiseach: I think what Deputy Ó Caoláin meant to say was that in the peaceful role the IRA now plays, as supportive of the peace process, is to try to discourage those who might get involved in paramilitary activities from doing so.
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: Discourage is a lovely word.
The Taoiseach: I am sure Deputy Ó Caoláin meant discourage by peaceful, lawful and good community means.
Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin: What other interpretation would Deputy Gilmore put on it?
The Taoiseach: I would not put any on it.