Mallon calls for an end to governments' 'constructive ambiguity'

The SDLP's Seamus Mallon pictured at his home in Markethill earlier this year.

Former deputy first minister Seamus Mallon has called for an end to what he describes as "the British and Irish governments' ambiguity" around continued Provisional IRA activity.

The one-time MP for Newry and Armagh, who served alongside David Trimble in the first devolved administration after the Good Friday Agreement, said the Provisionals had ceased paramilitary activity but he believed the organisation was involved in money laundering, fuel laundering and smuggling.

"The implication of this is that nods and winks have been made by government," he told The Irish News last night.

"I find it remarkable that nobody on the island of Ireland has served a custodial sentence for fuel laundering."


Mr Mallon (78) rejected suggestions that IRA structures should remain in place to ensure dissident groups did not exploit the void that would be left behind.

"I do not agree that an organisation which killed thousands of people should be allowed to keep its command and structures to prevent others from doing the same – there was never any justification," he said.

The former SDLP deputy leader blamed the two governments' "constructive ambiguity" for creating a situation where a paramilitary group could maintain its command structures.

"All of the ambiguities need to be cleared up because it's that which has done the damage and created the ongoing problems," he said.

He said a "heavy burden" was being placed on Chief Constable George Hamilton to provide not only security analysis but also a political assessment.


"It's quite incredible that after the involvement of the two governments in the whole process, they and everybody else are looking to the PSNI for a definitive position," Mr Mallon said.

"It makes you ask questions about the two governments' contribution to what is happening in the north of Ireland."

Despite his critical assessment of the situation, the former deputy first minister said the Ulster Unionists could have delayed their decision to leave the executive.

"Maybe they should have waited for a definitive position from the PSNI but obviously they were looking over their shoulders at the DUP," he said.

Mr Mallon, who following May's general election called for SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell to stand down, declined to comment on the party's response to the current crisis.

"I will wait and see what the SDLP decide at parliamentary and assembly level," he said.


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