Tánaiste: “This is an insidious threat to Northern Ireland’s future as a healthy, stable democracy, and therefore a threat to the whole of this island.”

Brian’s weariness at another political crisis notwithstanding, it would be a mistake to dismiss reaction to recent events as a “kerfuffle”.  There are legitimate concerns, and two men have been murdered.  The Irish Justice Minister, Fine Gael’s Frances Fitzgerald, has asked the Garda Commissioner for a “fresh assessment” of Provisional IRA activities to take into account “what the PSNI have been learning about any PIRA structures as a result of [the rigorous investigation being carried out by the PSNI into the murder of Kevin McGuigan]”.

Although, given the Justice Minister’s comments at the weekend, and the Northern Ireland Secretary of State’s declared previous knowledge, how would that differ from the current, presumably up-to-date assessment…

As RTÉ reports

In a statement this morning, Frances Fitzgerald said: “Recent developments are of considerable concern but what we need to do now is establish all the current facts and that is what is happening in the rigorous investigation being carried out by the PSNI.”

Ms Fitzgerald added: “As was clear from what the Chief Constable said at the weekend there are no simplistic answers about the continued existence of PIRA.

“To simply say PIRA continues to exist as if nothing has changed would be quite wrong.  To be blunt, making organisational judgements is complicated by the fact that many, if not all, members of PIRA were members of Sinn Féin.”

The leader of the coalition government’s junior partner, and Tánaiste, Joan Burton, has also commented

In a statement, [Joan Burton] said: “While I accept the assessments of the PSNI and the Garda that the Provisional IRA is no longer involved in terrorist activity, that is of little comfort given that members of the organisation are clearly involved in serious criminality.

“In that respect, while everyone acknowledges that Northern Ireland no longer faces the kind of paramilitary threat that the IRA once posed, its communities are still at risk from an organisation linked to murder and racketeering.

“This is an insidious threat to Northern Ireland’s future as a healthy, stable democracy, and therefore a threat to the whole of this island.

“It is therefore not good enough for Sinn Féin to deny all knowledge of Provisional IRA criminality and pretend it simply doesn’t exist.

“And it’s particularly reprehensible for Gerry Adams to be triumphalist about the IRA supposedly remaining ‘undefeated’ while communities suffer from continued criminality at the hands of members of the organisation.”

In the same RTÉ report, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin criticises the governments’ reaction

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has said the governments on both sides of the border seem to be implicitly accepting the existence of the IRA.

He said by saying it does not exist in the way it did in the past they are almost condoning it.

Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster, Mr Martin said he was taken aback by Ms Villiers saying it came as no surprise to her that the IRA still existed.

Mr Martin said the manner in which Ms Villiers responded to the crisis “left an awful lot to be desired”.

In relation to unionists considering their options in terms of the Stormont executive, Mr Martin said it is a very difficult situation for all of the parties in the executive.

He said the peace process belongs to everybody and that at times it becomes very frustrating when serious questions are raised that the response is “you are going to damage the peace process”.

In response, a still-in-denial Sinn Féin have claimed that Micheál Martin is, yep, “putting at risk” the peace process,  the Tánaiste of deflection – “The reality is that the organisation [that] Joan Burton refers to no longer exists.” – and the Minister for Justice of breaching the code of conduct for office holders “and we are currently looking into this.”

Meanwhile, in the Irish Times Gerry Moriarty returns to a key element in the recent events under investigation, which I noted previously, the Provisional IRA investigation into the murder of Jock Davison that preceded the murder of Kevin McGuigan, which police have stated they believe involved members of the Provisional IRA.

From the Irish Times report

As Davison’s body lay concealed inside a police forensic tent, a number of senior IRA figures arrived in the Markets. They were grim and hard-faced and determined. These were people you would see standing in the background at Ardoyne or in west Belfast during periods of tension over loyal order parades or at other times of sectarian trouble at the Catholic-Protestant interfaces.

They kept their counsel, not speaking to the press, leaving that sort of work to the local Sinn Féin representatives but you could see that their IRA pedigree gave them weight locally. They would have the ear of the likes of Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams.

In the Markets that IRA reputation and clout would have given them access to information about the Davison murder that never would have been available to the PSNI investigating detectives.

Not surprisingly the situation that day was very tense. Davison was a very senior republican who’d had a bad falling out with Kevin McGuigan. He’d been a longstanding member of the IRA. After the 1994 IRA ceasefire he was involved with McGuigan in Direct Action Against Drugs (DAAD) in the murder of about 12 alleged drug dealers, some of them very minor drugs figures.

It was another of those grotesque episodes of the Troubles – almost as if now that the IRA was on ceasefire some of its members needed an outlet for their bloodlust, so let’s have at the druggies.

Davison was also blamed for giving the order for the murder by IRA members of Robert McCartney close to the Markets in January 2005. He suffered some IRA censure for that killing but subsequently was rehabilitated back into the provisional republican movement and was a leading community activist in the Markets area when he was gunned down.

That day most people were reluctant to say much to the press, one man reflecting the general view: “Do I want to comment? The IRA! F**k no, there’d be trouble.”

Gerry Moriarty goes on to note

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, taking her cue from Hamilton, accepted that the IRA still existed but majored on the chief constable’s view that the murder was not “sanctioned or authorised by the Provisional IRA as an organisation”.

She believed Sinn Féin subscribed to the principles of democracy and consent, as is required to keep its Ministers in the Northern Executive.

She was also of the view that people hardly should be surprised that some IRA structures were still in place and that the IRA still existed.

Unionists, however, citing how the IRA formally ended its armed campaign in July 2005, did indeed express such surprise. They too know the names of the IRA figures who were in the Markets the day of the Davison murder. And they know too that they would be well known to Adams and McGuinness.

Yet whatever suspicions unionists might hold that does not criminally link these IRA people to the internal republican investigation of the Davison murder; nor does it criminally link them to the murder of McGuigan.

But if they are brought into the frame – even if it is by arrest rather than charge – then that could cause problems for the Sinn Fein leadership, to whom they would be linked. It would put pressure on unionists to respond.

Well, it could… And at least one newspaper has been given “the names of four people alleged to have carried out the [PIRA] inquiry“.

But we also know that Gerry Adams doesn’t like to ask too many questions [He “learnt a long time ago, if you don’t ask, you can’t tell”! – Ed], and he doesn’t like people asking “stupid” questions either…

In the Guardian, Henry McDonald notes one other potentially salient point

Over the last 24 hours there have been reports that McGuigan was spotted several weeks ago staking out the home of a prominent PIRA figure from west Belfast. A PIRA surveillance unit that was monitoring McGuigan’s movements observed him around the republican’s home a few weeks before the shooting, the reports said.

The individual being watched by McGuigan was part of an internal PIRA unit set up to investigate the Davison murder. This secret unit concluded that McGuigan had killed Davison in revenge over a longstanding vendetta between the two former PIRA comrades. However, McGuigan, through his solicitor, had denied any role in killing Davison.

One republican source told the Guardian that the sight of McGuigan stalking the senior PIRA figure just a few weeks ago was another reason why republicans were prepared to risk a fresh political crisis and kill him outside his home in the Catholic Short Strand district on 13 August.

This incident before McGuigan’s death was said to have convinced the internal PIRA unit that unless they moved against their former estranged comrade, he would eventually move against them.

Final word, for now, to Gerry Moriarty

Very few politicians want to see the collapse of the Executive and Assembly. But two men are dead. Some sort of moral imperative should apply regardless of the dictates of political pragmatism. What happens next is unpredictable but it is serious.

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  • Redstar2014

    And you don’t reckon any of the ” horror” being expressed by FF/FG/ Labour is anything at all to do with the upcoming elections………….??

    And I am def not a SF supporter- but not naive either

  • Alanbrooke

    are you new to politics ?

    that’s their job.

  • Brian Walker

    Case not proven Pete. Irish Labour is struggling for survival and competing for votes with Sinn Fein in the same constituency.

    By now the Assembly’s existence should have gained support as the essential focus of common interest, with its survival recognised as more important than the charge of limited infringement of the terms of the Agreements. I know this is a big ask when trust is apparently so weak, if not quite as weak as the unionist parties’ public reaction suggests. But there is more at stake than these particular two murders.

    Of course if it would be a different matter if it could be proved that the republican movement still regularly uses fear and intimidation to dominate their people. But we are a long way from that. Let’s at least be open minded about the evidence. One key test is if Sinn Fein want to convince rather than simply, deny.

  • chrisjones2

    My God. She has woken up.

    I assume the Commissioner will be on her toes this time in fear of a late night visit from a Senior Official

  • chrisjones2

    “with its survival recognised as more important than the charge of limited infringement of the terms of the Agreements”

    Why is its survival more important?I am not being careless of facetious in asking that. The Executive and politics at that level has become a real barrier to reconciliation and progress on every front. So if it goes why is that a bad thing? Is it just

    “And always keep a hold of nurse
    For fear of finding something worse”

    or is there a compelling rational reason?

    What if, for example, SOS NI were to suspend it for say 6 months and tell the parties to go away, reach agreement on a range of issues then put them to the electorate? In the meantime NIO could clear out the stables on welfare, gay marriage, etc etc ready for the one trick ponies to return

  • Zig70

    It’s like watching someone fly fishing with a short line.

  • the rich get richer

    And its the electorates job to be wise enough to see what all parties are up to.

  • Nevin

    “By now the Assembly’s existence should have gained support as the essential focus of common interest”

    Brian, where is the common interest in our tug-of-war constitutional scenario? Also what is the relevance of trust in our context? The voters have tended to reward those parties which are tough on the constitutional question; only about one in twenty-five of the electorate would give their first preference to APNI.

    ” the republican movement still regularly uses fear and intimidation to dominate their people”

    Who is going to put their head above the parapet in areas dominated by loyalist and republican paramilitaries?

  • ranger1640

    “the republican movement still regularly uses fear and intimidation to dominate their people”

    everyone who does poke their head up, they are demonized, and castigated as anti Sinn Fein/IRA anti peace process.

    The Quinn family, Mairia Cahill, Gareth O’Connor, the McCartney sisters even Brenden Hughes. Have all suffered at the hands of Sinn Fein/IRA retribution for daring to tell the truth about Sinn Fein/IRA. Sinn Fein/IRA even cynically used the McCartney sisters at their conference to promote Adams and the party.

  • ranger1640

    According to the secretary of state we all knew. So those who have a desire to put their mark at Sinn Fein/IRA need to ask themselves, who is really keeping them from moving on.

  • Robin Keogh

    Joan Burton is under shocking pressure as her party slips down the drain of southern politics so she has to say something to remind the people Labour still exist. She rattles out a few lines that she hardly believes herself and completely dismisses the SOS assertion that Sinn Fein like all other parties in the North Assembly are genuinely wedded to peace and democracy. Micheal Martin gets his nose in as usual with the arch hypocrisy we are used to, one minute celebrating the life of O ‘Donovan Rossa (The architect behind the first ever Irish republican attack on English cities) and then gets all moral about the threat posed by a group that nobody seems to be sure even exists as a real threat. Gerry Moriarty reports the shocker that a number of Mr davison’s Life long friends stood around looking grim faced just after his death as if they should have been giggling like schollgirls to entertain the assembled press. He then goes on to build paper bridges connecting the grim faced baddies to Sinn Fein. I wonder does moriarty spend much time at high altitude. It is said that a lack of oxigen can severley effect the Brain’s ability to reason. The Guardian then gives us details from a unnamed source or do they mean a made up source?Moriarity makes a sound point at the end about moral imperative. I assume he would agree then that we don’t whip up fear on the back of assumption and innuendo and let the police get on with their job instead?

  • james

    Yes, Robin, the time-honoured Sinn Fein trick of claiming that the more people there are who believe something to be true, the more likely it is to be an anti-SF plot. Perfect logic, since either way it protects you. Perfect, so long as the followers never actually do any independent thinking of their own. Seems a safe enough bet…

  • mickfealty

    I see SF is missing from your list of parties under pressure Robin. Why’s that?

  • Jane2

    Moral imperative? The first murder caused barely a political ripple…the second is all non Sinn Fein politicians can talk about. That’s a political imperative, not a moral one.

  • gendjinn

    Joan has unmasked the Garda Commissioner as a liar. Especially egregious as he told Padraig MacLochlainn TD that the PIRA were gone only this February.

  • Redstar2014

    Exactly. Mock outrage for political gain, almost up there with the dirty deeds themselves

  • Jag

    “This incident before McGuigan’s death was said to have convinced the internal PIRA unit that unless they moved against their former estranged comrade, he would eventually move against them.”

    Did anyone think to alert the PSNI, and relay their suspicions that McGuigan was allegedly targeting an individual, and let the PSNI deal with it? If McGuigan was really in the frame for the Davison killing, then surely, the PSNI would devote some resources to tracking McGuigan in circumstances where McGuigan might be planning an attack. Britain has 1,000 MI5 staff in Northern Ireland. That would have given them something to do.

    If PIRA has left the stage, then cooperation with the PSNI would have been the obvious way for people to deal with suspicions about Kevin McGuigan. Leaving the stage means you don’t take the law into your hands and mete out your own version of justice; if you have information relevant to a crime, you talk to the PSNI; if you think a crime is about to be commissioned, you talk to the PSNI.

  • Jag

    I remember the “horror” expressed last October after Mairia Cahill first made her allegations. There was uproar in the Dail and the FF/FG/Labour leaders were all photographed saying “there, there” to Cahill. That was a year and a half before the upcoming elections, six months after the Euro/local elections, and a month after the Dubin West by-election.

    Week-in, week-out in the Dail since March 2011, the FG leader takes pot-shots at SF and its (historical) links to PIRA.

    Of course there’s a political dimension to it, but which came first, the chicken or the egg, the incident giving rise to the outrage by elected politicians, or the outrage by politicians over an incident of concern to the electorate?

  • chrisjones2

    He is a she and that fact alone may throw light on the quality of your argument

  • Steve Larson

    It is so obviously only political that most people couldn’t care less.

    It will change nothing.

  • Steve Larson

    FG and FF have dropped Cahill like a hot rock.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    What a pity Cahill cannot similarly “drop” her experiences! Supported or unsupported by “real” politicians, how what she experienced was handled by Adams and others should be “an incident of concern to the electorate”, at least those who would be represented by reliable politicians.

  • Brian Walker

    SOS NI has no power to suspend. Enough parties would have to withdraw.to make devolution impossible. Outside pressure yes, but there really is no power from on high that would ” clean out the stables.” It really is up to us.

  • the rich get richer

    How weak the Ediface is !

    How little it takes to cause a tumble !

    What was it constructed upon ?

    Who mis-dreamed this farce ?

  • barnshee

    “By now the Assembly’s existence should have gained support as the essential focus of common interest”

    What “common interest ” deserves support -other than to provide well paid employment for people whose employment prospects otherwise would be grim

    Could they treat the sick, contribute to education -more prosaically could they design a structure -lay a brick– mend a leak – they are as much use as one legged men at an arse kicking competition


    1 Invite in all the elected thugs and others

    2 Remind them who pays the bills

    3 Inform them if they as much a break wind– ALL and I mean ALL damages will come out of the block grant -until it is reduced to zero if necessary.

    4 Give them a year to create a functioning executive if they can`t —close it

  • barnshee

    Stormont was prorogued the same could be done to the assembly

  • Barneyt

    Any word from the UUP? Are they moving out of the executive into opposition or is this the start of the “clean out..”?

  • barnshee

    “Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, taking her cue from Hamilton, accepted that the IRA still existed but majored on the chief constable’s view that the murder was not “sanctioned or authorised by the Provisional IRA as an organisation”.

    Its only a matter of time -arise Sir George –

  • gendjinn

    *shakes head* Éire Nua