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"Dried-out husks don't set out to murder people" - Burton

The Tanaiste’s comments were made in reaction to former Attorney General Michael McDowell saying the decision was made to let the IRA exist to avoid dissidents filling the void.

13/01/2014. Democracy Matters. Seanad Reform - 100 Former Justice Minister Michael McDowell Source: Sam Boal/Photocall Ireland

Updated 20:00

THE FORMER JUSTICE Minister Michael McDowell has weighed in on the issue of whether the Provisional IRA still exists as an organisation.

Writing in The Irish Times newspaper this morning, McDowell states that a decision was made to let the IRA continue to exist as an “unarmed and withering husk” that would become the “Old IRA”.

The former justice minister, who was in office between 2002 and 2007, said this decision was made to avoid any dissident group filling a void after the IRA was stood down in 2005.

“Was it part of the deal done at the Good Friday talks and at St Andrews that the IRA would cease to exist? The short answer is: no,” McDowell writes.

IRA existence 

McDowell is one of many to give his view on the issue of the existence of the IRA following the PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton saying the IRA still exists as an organisation, but not as a paramilitary organisation.

26/8/2015 Archives and Records Conferences Source: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Earlier this afternoon Tánaiste Joan Burton poured scorn on McDowell’s assessment of the IRA at a press briefing at the DoubleTree Hilton hotel in Dublin, stating that “dried-out husks don’t set out to murder people”.

She expressed the belief that Garda Commissioner Noirín O’Sullivan’s fresh report into the activeness or otherwise of the IRA at present should be delivered to government well in advance of the next election.

“I would hope it will be available in a relatively short time frame,” Burton said.

We have to address this as a society and as a democracy. Those countries that have seen the development of mafia-style organisations, it’s a very serious law enforcement issue.
It’s also a huge problem for those communities where those individuals associated with this kind of racketeering and criminality may come to be very prominent figures.

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Yesterday, the Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald asked the Garda Commissioner to liaise with the PSNI in carrying out a fresh assessment of the status of the Provisional IRA.

“There is no doubt that people who have been associated with PIRA have been – and continue to be – involved in the most serious crime and neither Gerry Adams nor Sinn Fein can wash their hands of responsibility for that. It is an inevitable legacy of the brutal campaign which PIRA waged.”

She also called on Sinn Féin and Adams to outline what steps the party will take to ensure it does not benefit from the proceeds of crime.

Sinn Féin’s Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that the IRA no longer exists.

He said he fundamentally disagreed with Theresa Villiers, the Secretary of State in Northern Ireland, who said she agreed with the Chief Constable that organisational structures still exist today.

Put forward evidence 

He urged the parties concerned to put forward in the public domain any evidence they are basing their opinion on.

The fact of the matter is that the IRA no longer exists.

He said Sinn Féin would under no circumstance have involvement with any organisation or individual who would be involved in those type of activities.

People who are involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and Jock Davidson are criminals, they are not republicans.

He called on members of the community to support the PSNI in bringing the criminals to justice.

Ó Caoláin said he cannot discount the Fitzgerald’s view that maybe people who had been previously involved such activities in the past may be involved in criminal activity today.

“I don’t know,” he said.

“She is wrong moving from that position to a position now that the question of whether or not the IRA exists and whether Sinn Féin has a relationship with an external organisation that would be involved in these activities.”

Ó Caoláin said the recent controversy is a “definite concerted effort on the part of the political opponents to Sinn Féin and very much about the upcoming elections in this state and in the north”.

His concern is that the recent controversy could cause real damage to all that has been achieved to date, he said.

Originally published 08.39 

Additional reporting Cianan Brennan

Read: Sinn Féin says Frances Fitzgerald may have broken rules with ‘political smears’>

Gerry Adams: The IRA had nothing to do with Kevin McGuigan’s murder>

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