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

  • eireanne

    check your headline, Mick!! Typo!!

  • Zeno

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

    Ah right. We are still going with the IRA doesn’t exist line. Cool.

  • Zig70

    So next the deal on Welfare reform where we will no doubt see money already allotted, pushed in early to look like investment and another few thousand vow not to vote again.

  • Robin Keogh

    Mick, did Martin Mcguinness say anything else in relation to the report or was that it?

  • Dan

    McDonnell has a brass neck. It’s him and his party which have always been found wanting with regard to taking a robust line with those who played at democracy whilst keeping their paramilitary threat in the background.

  • janefinch01 .

    The fact is that Sinn Fein isn’t in government at the pleasure of other political parties. In the last election, SF received 26.3 percent of first preference votes…those are votes from electors. Welcome to democracy.

  • mickfealty

    They all said more…

  • Robin Keogh

    From the SF Website;

    Sinn Féin Justice Spokesperson Pádraig Mac Lochlainn has commented on the publication of the report by An Garda Síochána, calling for resolution action and resources to tackle criminality and dissident groups.

    Deputy Mac Lochlainn said:

    “The report by An Garda Síochána is consistent with previous reports.

    “It is clear that the IRA leadership’s commitment to the peace process, as evidenced in its instruction to its members in 2005: ‘to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means’ and ‘not engage in any other activities whatsoever’ has been successful.

    “Dissident groups and criminal gangs appear to act with impunity. Sinn Féin activists and representatives have been threatened and attacked for standing up to these groups.

    “What is needed is not political rhetoric, but resolute action and resources to end their activities.

    “Today, I raised these matters in the Dáil with the Minister for Justice and specifically urged her to act on the recommendation of British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) for ‘the establishment of a permanent cross-border task force aimed at targeting organised criminal gangs involved with cross-border illicit trade’.

    “In addition, the issue of Justice and policing should be a standing matter of co-operation within the North-South Ministerial Council.”

  • Zeno

    Hey 178 thousand votes from the over 1.4 million entitled to vote isn’t to be sneezed at. Well done.

  • Acrobat_747

    SF are entering a slow decline in NI. Their core supporters are still deeply in love with the party and can see no wrong but the floating nationalist is getting bored.

    Martin McGuinness, Gerry Kelly, Alex Maskey are now old grey men who still haven’t got over the past, and understandably so. But they are quite frankly dull as dishwater. The younger SF MLAs are simply yes men who ooze too much love and adoration for Sinn Fein for it to be reasonable.

    Although everything looks rosy now, Sinn Fein are in deep deep trouble. Sinn Fein are like house prices a decade ago. And like house prices at their peak, nobody could have conceived how big and rapid the decline would be.

  • mac tire

    Well, it’s still sizeable, especially when you look at it as 178 thousand out of the 718,103 who bothered their arse to vote.
    Parties/individuals are there on their mandate. Nothing more, nothing less.

  • Jack Stone

    What backs that up? Does the fact that Sinn Fein received significantly larger polling than the seats that they currently hold in the Republic? Sinn Fein has a disproportionately large base of younger people when compared to other parties both in Republic and Northern Ireland. The thing is, young voters do not remember The Troubles and thus that whiff of cordite is less of a problem to the young voter when choosing Sinn Fein. They are the largest party in Dublin in the last local elections. They received more votes in the Elections for the European Parliament than any other party on the island of Ireland. If anything, their continued success shows that Sinn Fein’s long-term strategy is paying off. If anything a greying hidebound DUP and a much less subservient UUP shows that while everything looked strong and united for Unionism in the recent past, the natives are restless and the partisans are sharpening their knives for other Unionists.

  • Jack Stone

    Of course Sinn Fein wants to strengthen the North-South Ministerial Council when there is a good chance that if they end up going into Government (with FF presumably) they would have firm power on both sides of the border to veto anything they do not like.

  • James7e

    “The republican struggle”. Struggle for what? Bales of liquid cash?

  • chrisjones2

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

    …apart from the Army Council

    By the way, is Marty a member? If not, who is and who does Martin report to?

    Can any of the Acolytes and sock puppets advise us?

  • chrisjones2

    “What is needed is not political rhetoric, but resolute action and resources to end their activities.”

    ……… as in Dundalk council trying to stop them being mentioned in relation to poisoning the tow water supply

  • chrisjones2

    Xi Jinping is in London today. He has a 100% mandate …so thats ok then

  • chrisjones2

    What republican struggle? Its over. They lost

  • Mary Anna Quigley

    PSF PIRA can not excist without Army council. Smoking guns. Staff union management. See they need to control haver power live lavish life. Do not care about anyone. Used many for political advantage. Most ruthlessness. Did more harm to families than good.will do anything to abuse their power to control egoistic bullies. Sociopathic liars

  • Granni Trixie

    The report doesn’t tell us much we didn’t know. But it will
    hopefully bring it home to supporters of SF in denial or ignorant about its continued exstence. Especially SF Southerners – now they know what they’ve gotten into. I also wonder if it is now clearer that the Army Council pulled the plug on welfare reform? Sf ought to be challenged on this.

    I still think however that the UUP ought to have found a less destructive way to address the problem.
    That said, whilst I can see why the spotlight is on SF (it has a mandate) the report spells out clearly the extent and variety of loyalist criminality. Have unionists in particular the will to tackle that?

  • Lorcs1

    Sinn Fein’s main issue is the ambivalence of their voters as opposed to losing floating voters to other parties. the declining turnout is more of a risk to them than the SDLP/Alliance.

    Some detractors SF sometimes fail to recognise that their policies and their politicians are actually quite popular within their electorate. Their policies do have a lot of resonance with the younger more liberal voter, e.g. gay marriage, abortion, anti-austerity etc.

    SDLP tend to follow rather than lead, their only trump card is the moral high ground when it comes to issues around violence, both current and past, and even that card isn’t a huge hook for voters. SF electorate are well aware of their past, but yet they’ll continue to vote for them.

    From personal experience at a local level, issues in the community were usually dealt with quite well by SF councillors. Issues around benefits/housing/roads/anti-social behaviour etc. were always better responded to by SF than any of the other parties. These things tend to get rewarded at the ballot box, if they can get the voters to show up.

  • Lorcs1

    You could be describing Stormont.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The killer revelation is that the IRA Army Council oversees SF. Just think about that. A party in government in Western Europe that isn’t just linked to but *answers to* a shadowy, illegal paramilitary group responsible for hundreds upon hundreds of murders of their fellow citizens. Would anyone anywhere else accept this?

  • Dan

    The PSNI should be tackling that

  • Dan

    Didn’t Poots tell Nolan this morning that it was preferable to direct rule.

  • barnshee

    The “Army council” gets enough votes to get elected –convicted murderers sit as MLAs -its what people voted for -get used to it

  • IRF

    Double negatives all round:
    Mike Nesbitt: “How can [Sinn Fein] continue to deny the IRA doesn’t exist…”
    Martin McGuinness: “We take no instructions from no-one else.”

  • Lorcs1

    The real question is, are Sinn Fein supporters bothered by the existence of the Army Council? Is it a huge surprise to anybody, and more importantly will it cost them any votes? Probably not many….

  • LiamÓhÉ

    The DUP response actually seems quite reasonable, finally showing a will to get back to governing and policy-making. As for the PAC/PIRA/SF holy trinity, the wording in the report is that PIRA members believe that the PAC oversees SF and PIRA activities, not categorically stating that this is the case. As Peter Robinson said, this is hardly a surprise anyway.

    How else could the hard-line republican movement be kept on track (excepting all the other grouplings)? In the Irish media across the island, there is the inherent threat that SF maintains a private army command, which when it becomes the dominant party in terms of raw numbers across the 32 counties, could edge the island back towards instability. This was the dominant threat throughout the last few decades from a 26-county perspective.

    The cure for this is to keep SF on track, involved and not isolated, and run more parties, nationalist and unionist on both sides of the border to offer them electoral competition. The key is to have a long-term vision of where we, as an island and multi-faceted nation with varying allegiances, want to be in the future.

  • Reader

    Lorcs1: Their policies do have a lot of resonance with the younger more liberal voter, e.g. gay marriage, abortion, anti-austerity etc.
    What is the SF position on abortion? Every now and again I check the SF website for a recent manifesto, but I never see anything but abstractions or evasions on this particular topic. Has there been a recent update?

  • Greenflag 2

    HMG & Queenie seem ok with that and the British Nuclear power industry -Chinese have the spare investment dosh -Britain doesn’t . Welcome to Planet Earth 2015 AD .
    XI gets 100% -Cameron gets 37% – SF get 26% –

    Mandates are not what they used to be apparently.

  • murdockp

    the most lethal terrorist force on the planet…they will take that as a compliment queida murdered more people in half a day than thirty years of conflict. I am no fan of the IRA or SF but that title of the worst… not even top fifty in terms of murders.

    Mike you are a news reader. next you will be telling me frank mitchell had laser eye surgery.

  • murdockp

    only if voters have an alternative. SDLP is not it.

  • Lorcs1

    Limited abortions should be allowed in cases of fatal foetal abnormality.

  • Spike

    what to do? the report confirmed everything that we ever thought was true anyway which is basically that the UDA/IRA/RHC etc etc are masquerading as militants but are actually just a pile of hoods after a quick buck from drugs, fuel and extortion. Shame on you who are attacking the political parties for point scoring purposes – help get rid of the scum that are exploiting our communities rather than saying Sinn Fein are this, and the DUP are that. Its easy to attack sitting behind a keyboard, try getting out on your streets and doing something. Stormont is dysfunctional but it still helps keep us safe. We have a pile of hoods terrorising the province and we are involved in petty point scoring. A pile of sheep following tribal politics

  • Granni Trixie

    I think it is unreasonable to expect the PSNI alone to deal with the problem even should they be adequately resourced (.unlikely).

    Yes, they and the law have a key role in dealing with criminality but there is a cultural and political aspect – the problem does not exist in a vacuum.

  • Granni Trixie

    I agree with your analysis. There is a lesson to other parties who neglected to respond to ordinary people’s concerns/needs.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    surely there is another alternative?

  • Reader

    So – that’s absolutely minimal outreach to “the younger more liberal voter”, isn’t it?

  • IRF

    Well, if you can persuade the nationalist electorate en masse to reject SF at the ballot box? Gregory’s got the idea: “curry my yoghurt” and all that. And I’m sure all the shenanigans on the Twelfth helps too. Good luck!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Nationalist voters who have made the mistake of voting SF have to take responsibility themselves. It’s not too late now to do the right thing and reject them at the ballot box.

    I’m sure some don’t mean to cause offence by voting SF. But it seems few SF voters really think through the moral consequences of voting for them and what it means to a wider society which suffered the Republican Movement’s terror campaign. I’m not sure that can be simply blamed on unionists, who aren’t, after all, voting for the ex-terrorists on their side in any big numbers.

    Though you’re right, “curry my yoghurt” doesn’t help (and is also a revolting thought). Those guys don’t deserve your vote either.

  • Zeno

    It does mean that all those SF/IRA jibes were complete nonsense and it was IRA/SF all along…………. suckers.

  • Lorcs1

    Sorry not sure what you mean. Can you elaborate?

  • babyface finlayson

    They still don’t support abortion in cases of rape do they? I think polls show opinion in the South would support such legislation. I can’t see many of the younger generation being too impressed by that stance.
    Nor come to that the existence of an army council. It’s hardly going to woo crucial new voters.

  • mac tire

    Don’t know, Chris. Your leader, Cameron, is hanging about with him now. Perhaps he might ask.

  • Reader

    You suggested that SF’s policy on abortion would resonate with the younger, more liberal voter. Whereas I don’t think it would impress even a relatively modern conservative voter, who would regard it is the bare minimum credible position for a western European political party.

  • Pasty2012

    Once again a list of allegations made against Sinn Fein by British Intelligence and their supergrasses without one piece of actual evidence being produced. The PSNI and MI5 supplied the allegations to the “Independent” panel, allegations that they made in August and could hardly backtrack on without losing face. Instead they add to their claims by telling us that their supergrasses who were members of the IRA “Believe”, yes they “Believe” that the PAC have overarching control of Sinn Fein and the IRA. I have heard intelligence sources say they believe that the DUP were to receive the £7million in proceeds from the NAMA Deal, but just like the “Believers” neither offered any actual evidence other than their “Beliefs”. Of course the Independent Panel not only accepted the intelligence from the PSNI and MI5 but also watched the evidence in the TV Programme that the PSNI used as evidence to arrest Bobby Storey.

  • Lorcs1

    Well compared to the rest of the parties? Alliance is the only other one in favour of changing abortion law (correct me if i’m wrong), and they just mirror SF’s position.

    Anyone wanting anything more than this position is found wanting in mainstream NI politics, SF are the (equal) best of a poor selection.

  • Reader
  • Lorcs1

    With a single MLA and 4 councillors, I was excluding GP by using the term mainstream politics. Other will disagree.

  • ted hagan

    I’m afraid if I were a nationalist living in Northern Ireland, and with the loyalist paramilitaries always an ominous presence, a very weak police force, and the constant sneering from some unionist politicians, I think I would like to think there might be some IRA structure still in place in some mild form or other, just in case.
    Is that sacrilege to say that?

  • Reader

    Maybe not sacrilege, but ill judged. The PIRA has been useless in protecting the Catholic community from loyalists.
    But maybe you are counting on the threat of deterrence through tit-for-tat sectarian massacres – that’s sacrilege.

  • Granni Trixie

    My understanding is that Alliance supports a change in the law in respect of FFA but not in other circumstances.

  • Granni Trixie

    Yes. You obviously buy the guff that the IRA existed to protect people which is manifestly untrue. Btw, loyalists make the same claim of a protection role.

  • Granni Trixie

    But is it true?

  • Mirrorballman

    A lot of mentions of the IRA and Army council. Not one in relation to Loyalists up to their necks in crime..

    Makes you think…

  • Reader

    If the Green party are able to lift the socially liberal label from parties who are only paying lip service to the concept they may soon meet even your stringent conditions for entering the mainstream.
    For instance, even I am considering giving a transfer to the Hippy Luddites next time round.

  • aquifer

    A monopoly of legally sanctioned force is not being maintained, so in one sense the UK is a failed state. These matters are the proper concern of the state security apparatus, who cannot even manage to hire a cherrypicker to paint out the adverts for sectarian murder gangs! Would this be allowed in GB?

    This bad joke is at the expense of law abiding UK citizens, and especially on anybody game enough to run a legal business in these areas.

    What would James Bond do with (to) them?

  • Granni Trixie

    Would you not agree that in the particular circs of NI criminality is more than police business . Some communities for instance sustain or tolerate it. Parents in particular have a role.

    ‘Crime” is a social/cultural construct as well as legally defined.

  • aquifer

    thinking reminds me of the UVF’s role in harassing Alliance out of East Belfast.

    Wait a minute – I thought the Mitchell principles ruled out the use of violence in politics?

    I guess outlaws don’t count as politicians, though clearly the votes they stirred up were counted, and to the benefit of the DUP.

  • aquifer

    The Provos were good at provocation but the police were better at protection, the nickname is the clue. With Paisley they were a great double act. Naa they were both crap, but kept the TV people in work I suppose.

  • aquifer

    SDLP representatives were in the front line of Provo intimidation. Yes Hume saved SFPIRA from a long and squalid defeat and Irish Catholic Nationalism from ignomony by association, but he undoubtably saved many lives. Orange and Paisleyite Unionists sustained the Provos by seeking to exclude Catholic UK citizens from full participation in the state. What an immoral waste of time and lives that was.

  • aquifer

    But if the state refuses to assert its overarching authority, it ends up licensing illegality, and parents and children read this.

    The cruel methods used by paramilitary gangs can be more persuasive than those allowed to the state, so the state has to work harder in other dimensions to challenge the usurpers and their methods.

    e.g. They could produce a bill of rights for NI conditions that notices the intimidation of people in their own homes. At long last.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    if only they could talk …

    We don’t know, the report is not definitive on that and we urgently need clarification. It may be that the security services genuinely can’t be sure either. I’m assuming though that reporting IRA members’ belief that this is how it works, without any other words to cast doubt on that belief, suggests the report authors think it is true. So that’s my working assumption. But you’re right, we need more on that. It’s kind of crucial to how things proceed, and SF’s right to be in government or not. If true, they should be out until it’s convincingly rectified.

    The problem for SF is that its relationship with the IRA has been so tightly interwoven for its entire existence that it’s hard to imagine there is no connection now. It’s also got such a history of misrepresenting its IRA links that there’s no point even asking the organisation itself what they are, we can’t believe them anyway. Intelligence reports, though imperfect, seem to be really the only way to find out the truth of what’s going on with that party and its paramilitary links.

    That this is necessary in 2015 is itself totally absurd and shows how un-normal a party SF is. No other party would get away with anything remotely like it. I guess the lesson is, if you are brazen about your dodginess, people become de-sensitised to it and you can get away anything. See: Berlusconi; Putin; Charles Haughey. All the greats. They say, “here we are, we’ll do what we want, we don’t care what you think, and what are you going to do about it?” And they gamble on decent, mild-mannered people lacking the cojones (pardon the male-ism) to call them on it. I always quote it, but Max Frisch’s ‘Biedermann und die Brandstifter”, written in the aftermath of Nazi-ism, is the key piece of art here. How decent but polyanna-ish people get ridden over by the brazenly aggressive and inculcated in their own destruction.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but a democracy also needs the rule of law, does it not? If you’re elected, you have a mandate, but not a licence to flout the law and get up to your neck in criminality. Fairness to other parties requires they all be held to common standards of behaviour. Being answerable to, or even just influenced by, an illegal paramilitary organisation is, in every democracy on Earth, something of a no-no. You’re not telling me it’s allowed, surely?