Round up of party reactions to the assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland

Alasdair McDonnell, SDLP…

“There must be a whole hearted political approach to paramilitarism and criminality. No one, no party and no organisation should be found wanting.

“We do not need to hear more Sinn Fein or other denials. Nearly 20 years since ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement, illegal structures and activities have no place in the life of the island. We should not hear the recycling of tired old denials which show a new contempt for Irish democracy.

“There must be a wholehearted law enforcement approach to seeking out all involved in criminality and all who hold historic assets, be it for personal gain or not. Paramilitary organisations may be committed to peace but too many of their members want a piece of the action.

 

Mike Nesbitt, UUP…

The report has highlighted in the starkest terms the issue for Sinn Fein. How can they continue to deny the IRA doesn`t exist when this report makes clear Sinn Fein are being overseen by the IRA`s Army Council.

“This blows a hole in Sinn Fein`s argument. They demand we respect their political mandate, but they now need to make clear the extent to which that mandate is shaped by a group of unnamed shadowy figures who in the past have overseen the most lethal terrorist force on the planet.

“We note the panel concur exactly with our assessment of the triple evil of the continued presence of paramilitary organisations, which is; the control they exercise over communities, the impact of criminality and organised crime on the economy, and the damage to our international reputation. We still see the opportunity to rid the country and this island once and for all of all paramilitary and associated criminal activity, but for now it`s over to Sinn Fein, who have some very serious explaining to do, starting with how they are going to accept reality regarding the IRA.”

Jim Allister, TUV…

“It says all that needs to be said about the DUP’s lust for power that hours after a report confirmed that the IRA Army Council not only existed but that it controls Sinn Fein, the DUP is back to business as usual with Sinn Fein? This from the party which claimed it only went into government with Sinn Fein on the basis of a manifesto in 2007 which stated: “All paramilitary and criminal activity and terrorist structures must be abandoned before Sinn Fein is admitted to Government.”

“TUV alone is clear about what needs to be done. The current arrangements are totally immoral and need to be consigned to history. No true democrat can sit in government with those controlled by an Army Council.

Trevor Lunn, Alliance…

“In a peaceful democracy, there is no need for the Provisional Army Council to exist. While the assessment concludes it is exclusively political, there is a challenge for Sinn Fein, who still deny the IRA exists. If the focus of the republican movement is purely political, then a paramilitary structure has no place.

Micheal Martin, Fianna Fail…

“The attempt by Sinn Féin to distract from the key findings and instead attack those who comment on them, will convince no one and serves only to remind citizens of the deeply dishonest and disingenuous position the party has taken throughout this crisis.

“Too many good people have spent too much time investing in the peace process for it to be thrown away.  The risk of that good work being undone grows every day that these paramilitaries continue to exist.  As a starting point, their fundraising and wholesale smuggling and counterfeiting need to be stopped and prosecutions brought.  Given the cross border nature of the crime, it needs a robust cross border response and I will continue to press the Taoiseach on this.

The DUP (interestingly, with no byline)…

While not surprised we are disturbed at the findings that structures, including the so-called Army Council remain in existence many years after the IRA ceasefire, albeit that the report suggests its purpose is supportive of the peace process.  Indeed the conclusion that individual members of the IRA are involved in criminality and violence as well as murder underlines the fact that much more remains to be done and that the PSNI and security services must be given every support to ensure such activities are a thing of the past.

This report sets the agenda for the talks as the parties determine how to deal with the disbandment and legacy of paramilitary groups.  There can be no acceptable level of violence nor is it acceptable for any terrorist structures to be in existence.  We are determined that the talks resolve these issues and to that end we will be working to agree an outcome that rids Northern Ireland of the remaining vestiges of paramilitarism and organised crime.

…the report sets out very starkly the issues that the Talks process must deal with.  Any agreement flowing from these Talks must include proposals to tackle the matters identified in the review.  We have a very short time to reach agreement and while some common ground has been evident all the parties must step up the pace in the next few days.  This report has brought clarity to this key issue.”

Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein…

“Let me be absolutely clear and unequivocal – Sinn Féin is now the only organisation involved in the republican struggle and in republican activism.”

Enda Kenny, Taoiseach…

There may have been a time when living with constructive ambiguity helped the peace process, but that time has now passed. Paramilitarism in all its vestiges must be removed. After 21 years of the IRA ceasefire, and 10 years after decommissioning and the IRA announcement, it is past the time when it should carry any capacity for threat.

Theresa Villiers, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland…

Working with the main political parties and society more broadly we need a strategy to lead us to the point where these organisations no longer exist and their influence is removed from Northern Ireland once and for all.

That is one of the two main goals of the talks that I’m chairing at Stormont and it is an outcome to which all parties say they are committed.

The other goal is to secure the full implementation of the Stormont House Agreement.

And that sets the scene for some interesting conversations…

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty