“If it is no longer an obstacle..”

At the Guardian’s CommentisFree, Malachi O’Doherty picks up on an interesting detail in the IMC report.

The BBC flatly reports as fact that the IMC has said that the army council is “defunct”. Actually, the IMC’s assessment includes the largely unnoticed detail that the IRA is still gathering intelligence on dissident republicans but that the means by which it is doing so are not necessarily illegal.

So it does exist, it does function and it does have a project in hand. Its wider project, even if it does nothing, is to maintain an old and revered republican tradition.

So, more than just symbolic then? Malachi goes on to argue

I suggest that if the governments are so confident that the IRA does not function illegally they have a hand to play. They could simply legalise the IRA on both sides of the border. Well why not? Why should it be illegal to be a member of an organisation which does not function in any perceptible illegal fashion?

If it is no longer an obstacle, in the eyes of government, to the devolution of policing and justice powers, then let it be a legal organisation and that will remove from the DUP much of the reasoning by which they continue to regard it as a problem. If the governments can’t do that, then surely they are conceding that the DUP has a point.

For the record, that detail from the IMC report. [pdf file]

PIRA is not recruiting or training members and the membership continues to decline, and there is some issue as to what membership means in the absence of activity. In so far as gathering information or intelligence may continue in any limited way – not in itself improper if it does not involve illegal methods or intent – we believe that it is mainly for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of any threat from dissident republicans.

And, naturally, they’ll be passing on that “information or intelligence” to the appropriate authorities..

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