Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin leader says 'IRA has gone away'

Garda Commissioner Drew Harris

SINN Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the IRA no longer exists following comments by Garda Commissioner Drew Harris.

Mr Harris said An Garda Síochána agreed with a PSNI assessment that Sinn Féin and the IRA were overseen by a provisional army council.

The former PSNI deputy chief constable was speaking at a graduation ceremony for new recruits in Co Tipperary.

A report commissioned by the British government on the status of paramilitary groups in 2015, written by the PSNI and MI5, stated the provisional army council still existed.

That report further said the army council still strategically oversaw both the IRA and Sinn Féin.

The PSNI has said its analysis has not changed in the five-year period since.

Mr Harris said in national security matters, it was his obligation "to report to the government".

"We have been contributing to the (Independent Reporting Commission) on the status of various paramilitary groups and we would hold with their opinion on these matters," he said.

"I am also aware of the PSNI and the British security services assessment and we do not differ from that view."

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald last night insisted "the war is over".

Asked in Co Louth if the IRA still existed, she said: "No it does not, so far as I am aware, no it does not.

"I don't answer for the IRA, I'm not a spokesperson for the IRA. I'm the leader of Sinn Féin and I'm telling you the war is over."

Responding to Mr Harris' assessment, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar asked on Twitter: "Why doesn't McDonald disband the Army Council and the PIRA or if she cannot, repudiate them and sever all links and do so publicly and unequivocally?"

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the issue of whether or not the army council still oversaw Sinn Féin was not going to go away.

"No matter how hard Sinn Féin representatives try to spin in the media, and no matter how aggressively their trolls try to bully critics on social media, the inconvenient truth keeps popping up. These are real issues that aren't going away," he said.

It a statement, a Sinn Féin spokesman said: "It is lost on no one that this has arisen after a vote in the Dáil where someone other than a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael won most votes for nomination as taoiseach.

"The facts are these - we have a peace process, that republicans are committed to peace, democracy good government and delivering for people.

"The fact is that as we speak, dangerous elements threaten Michelle O'Neill and Gerry Kelly and members and Sinn Féin and it would be more becoming for political leaders to speak out on that."

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