In the Belfast Telegraph, Liam Clarke highlights a significant point from the police assessment of Provisional IRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan – a point that was not included in earlier reports of that police assessment. From the Belfast Telegraph article
Police have confirmed that senior IRA members conducted an inquiry into the death of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, gunned down in May, and identified Kevin McGuigan as the likely killer.
Brian Rowan also mentioned that ‘inquiry’ in his UTV blog yesterday [21 August]
The McGuigan murder was a reprisal – the settling of a score after the killing of one-time senior IRA leader Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison.
A senior police officer told me yesterday that there is “no intelligence or evidence” to link McGuigan to the Davison shooting in the Markets in early May.
What happened then has developed now to the point of yet another political crisis.
The police assessment was nuanced, but it put the IRA firmly in the frame.
“Members of PIRA carried out their own investigation” into the Davison killing.
And “current members of PIRA” were involved in the McGuigan murder.
“Quite clearly we are saying PIRA still exists because current members of PIRA were involved,” that senior police officer said.
If there are current members, there has to be an organisation, and that brings that Gerry Adams’s quip of twenty years ago back into today’s thinking: “They haven’t gone away you know.”
Today, Liam Clarke adds
The Belfast Telegraph has received the names of four people alleged to have carried out the inquiry, and another Short Strand former prisoner who is now missing from his home.
The men identified to us are all in their 50s or 60s and were ranking members of the IRA in the past. All but one comes from the organisation’s 3rd Belfast Battalion area, which covers most of the city outside west Belfast. Its strongholds are Short Strand, the Markets and Ardoyne.
In 2000, Peter Robinson, then MP for East Belfast, named one of the men who is said to have carried out the inquiry as a member of the IRA Army Council. He placed two of the others on the organisation’s general headquarters staff.
This was based on intelligence he received from a member of An Garda Siochana and was confirmed at the time by security sources in Northern Ireland.
The men who carried out the inquiry included a man who has been associated with the Restorative Justice movement, a former or serving adjutant general of the IRA who has been targeted by MI5 for surveillance in the past, its director of intelligence who himself had a recent death threat, and a former OC of the Belfast Brigade.
There is nervousness about how the situation will develop now. There are fears of revenge attacks as the identities of people allegedly involved become the subject of speculation. One suspect named locally has already left home.
To be fair to the Provisional IRA, the organisation itself has never said that it has disbanded and the most that Sinn Féin figures will concede is that, as Gerry Kelly put it on Thursday, “The IRA has left the stage.” The stage perhaps, but not the theatre. The assumption that the IRA went away when it made its July 2005 announcement ending the armed campaign against the British is due almost entirely to an over-reading of the statement mixed with a large dollop of wishful thinking.
Nowhere in that statement did “P O’Neill” say that the IRA was disbanding.
Adds The PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has confirmed that “some provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist”. From the UTV report
Speaking publicly about the [Kevin McGuigan] murder investigation for the first time, the Chief Constable said: “We have no information to suggest that violence, as seen in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, was sanctioned or directed at a senior level in the Republican movement”.
“We assess that some provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist but has undergone significant change since the Belfast Agreement in 1998.
“We assess that in the organisational sense the Provisional IRA does not exist for paramilitary purposes.”
“It is our assessment that the provisional IRA is no longer engaged in terrorism.”
Mr Hamilton added: “Our assessment indicates that a primary focus of the Provisional IRA is now promoting a peaceful, political Republican agenda.”
However he noted: “Some current Provisional IRA and former members continue to engage in a range of criminal activity and occasional violence in the interest of personal gain or personal agendas.”
Further RTÉ has an additional quote from the Chief Constable
Individual [[PIRA] members cooperated in shooting dead Kevin McGuigan in East Belfast but organisational structures have brought members of the outlawed organisation along the path of peace, Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton said.
Some structures have changed, some have been dissolved but those remaining are not being used for terrorism, he said during a briefing at PSNI headquarters in Belfast.
Mr Hamilton said: “They are not on a war footing, they are not involved in paramilitary activity in the sense that they were during part of the conflict.” [added emphasis]
Well, that’s all right then, George. Obviously…