Only a fool believes IRA disappeared into ether

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly is an Irish News columnist with a background in politics and public relations. He is also a former member of the Policing Board.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said the IRA was not involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the organisation "does not exist"
Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said the IRA was not involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the organisation "does not exist" Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams has said the IRA was not involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and the organisation "does not exist"

At the weekend the satirical site LAD put up a picture of balaclava-covered men in paramilitary uniforms and above it wrote the headline: "‘The IRA does not exist’, claims IRA man at IRA press conference".

It kind of perfectly sums up the present situation following the murder of former IRA man Kevin McGuigan.

Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, who was never in the IRA, says the IRA was not involved in the killing.

These days officialdom in both Downing Street and Merrion Street accepts republican self-certification with the authority of a papal encyclical.

That said the IRA paramilitary war with the British and Irish state is over.

But the organisation still exists with some double jobbing as privateers, criminals or vigilantes.

After the police unmasked a well-known bout of fuel laundering in the border areas, Adams said that there was “no place for republicans involved in any criminality”.

The accepted interpretation of those at that time was that republicans would not be involved in criminal activity.

Some observers of the republican movement were more cynical. Maybe he meant it was for lack of space there were no places left?

Who knows, as the machinations of his linguistic mangling are a mystery, as proven by his Twitter feed.

Only a fool would believe that the IRA disappeared into the ether. But it seems we are littered with fools.

It would appear that ex-Provos killing present Provos or vice versa will not be allowed to upset the Stormont gravy train. Internecine feuding between former comrades is a harsh but reoccurring reality of peace.

Look at the language of those in power in response to the investigating officer’s claims that members of the Provisional IRA - an organisation that isn’t supposed to exist - were involved in the murder Mr McGuigan.

The Secretary of State, Ms Villiers, said that this was “serious”; Mr Ford, the justice minister, said there were ‘major concerns”; the Irish foreign minister, Frances Fitzgerald, said “speculation about the murder was unhelpful”.

Now is it just me but are these not master-classes in understatement?

The speculation they were responding to was not rumour or conjecture but the considered comments of a senior member of the PSNI.

Of course it wasn’t long before George Hamilton, the Chief Constable, was sent out to dampen that so called “unhelpful speculation”.

To George, the IRA still exists broadly in the structure of its paramilitary years but has changed in purpose. The IRA was not on a war footing, he declared.

That said, there was evidence of IRA involvement in the murder of Mr McGuigan but there was no proof that the IRA leadership sanctioned it.

If Disney did thrillers, they could hire the PSNI as scriptwriters.

The IRA did not disband in 2005, nor did they totally decommission all their weapons or their structures as both would be needed for internal housekeeping, fundraising and the privatization of their commercial operations.

Russian intelligence sources said that the IRA actually bought 20 new weapons during the decommissioning process.

Italian police in 2013 found evidence of an IRA/mafia £450m money-laundering scheme.

Also in 2013, the gardai found Semtex being stored by dissident republicans that was part of the Libyan shipment to the IRA, which should have been decommissioned.

The weaponry retained for internal house keeping has led to murder and punishment attacks and all from an organisation that is not supposed to exist.

Perhaps the Chief Constable would like to expand on its new purpose?

Remember, John Hume’s premise for peace was based on “no guns around the table” or, more presciently, “under the table”.

Republican paramilitaries privatising their activities is not compatible with being supportive of the democratic process when it creates a class of citizens who are beyond the reach of the law.

While he is at it, the Chief Constable should also explain what structures of the IRA are still broadly in place - armoury, finance, operations, training or intelligence? We also need to know who is in control of it.

The faulty institutions of administration in Northern Ireland should not collapse because of the IRA’s continuance, nor should Sinn Fein be held accountable for the IRA’s actions. They have a mandate that stands alone.

But no republican is beyond the law and the peace process is no longer a big enough fig leaf under which to hide IRA criminality.

What Gerry Adams says about the IRA is irrelevant. Ask the communities still living in its shadows.