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Monday 11 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
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Provisional IRA members leafleting and electioneering for Sinn Féin - report

Two reports into the current status of the Provisional IRA have been published today. Here’s what they say…

IRA PA An IRA mural in Belfast. PA

Updated 5.55pm 

AN INDEPENDENT REPORT into paramilitary activity has found that the Provisional IRA still exists, but in a much-reduced capacity.

Northern Ireland Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said that while PIRA’s structure remains in place it is in a “much-reduced form” and the group is “not actively recruiting”.

Villiers said the report found the organisation’s ruling body, the army council, is committed to a united Ireland by political means.

The report notes that the provisional army council “oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy” and PIRA members “have been directed to actively support Sinn Féin within the community including activity like electioneering and leafleting”.

Speaking in the House of Commons, Villiers noted that some of its members are involved in crimes such as large-scale smuggling, violence and murder, but said the IRA “is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state”.

The report, which was compiled by the Police Service of Northern Ireland and MI5, was released by the British Government this afternoon.

Separately, a report by the Garda Commissioner Noirin O’Sullivan for Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has found there is no evidence of PIRA military departments or the Army Council operating in the Republic.

Although the report finds that a significant number of persons who have associated with the PIRA remain criminally active.

The British and Garda reports were compiled after the murder of ex-IRA prisoner Kevin McGuigan Sr in August. An investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death is ongoing.

Allegations of IRA involvement in the killing led to a crisis in the Northern Executive, with all but one of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) ministers resigning and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) pulling out its only minister.

Following publication of the report, the DUP announced its ministers will return to office. Nigel Dodds, the party’s deputy leader, said it is “totally unacceptable” that the IRA stills exists.

‘Must be addressed’

Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said the British intelligence report makes for “sobering reading”.

While acknowledging that these paramilitary organisations no longer represent a terrorist threat, it nonetheless presents a complex and challenging profile of unacceptable residual activities by various groups in Northern Ireland which are damaging to communities and which must be addressed.

Flanagan said that, 21 years on from the first paramilitary ceasefires, “the transition to a fully normalised society in Northern Ireland must be taken forward definitively”.

“All participants in the Stormont House Talks have a duty of care to the people of this island to bring an end to the remaining blight of paramilitarism in communities,” Flanagan stated.

Tánaiste Joan Burton said the British report was “profoundly shocking” and urged Gerry Adams to explain the extent of his knowledge of paramilitary activity and the extent of its funding of Sinn Féin.

‘No longer credible’

Speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, Taoiseach Enda Kenny committed to the “need to complete” the peace process.

“I’ve made the government’s position very clear on that,” he added.

Kenny also noted a number of cross-border initiviatives to fight serious crime and fuel laundering, and that it will assessed whether further joint operations are needed.

We will continue to work together to combat criminality in all forms both sides fo the border.

He said the saying the IRA has left the stage, as Gerry Adams has repeatedly done, ”is no longer credible”.

Fianna Fáil’s Michael Martin said authorities in the Republic of Ireland had let the standards of intelligence gathering in border areas slip in recent years, and that it is no longer at the capacity of what is needed.

He also said that the paramilitary organisations are still “ruling the roost” in some Northern communities.

Briefly addressing the report during his contribution, Gerry Adams criticised Martin and Fianna Fáil as “a hurler on the ditch” before raising a separate issue.

tv2 Theresa Villiers

Martin McGuinness response

In Westminster, Villiers said that structures of other paramilitary groups such as the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) also still exist.

She added that paramilitary organisations “have no place in a democratic society” and should disband.

Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister, said: “It is a matter of historical fact that the IRA instructed 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’.

Let me be absolutely clear and unequivocal. Sinn Féin is now the only organisation involved in the Republican struggle and in Republican activism.

He said the Northern Executive needs to move on and focus on issues such as the economy and welfare cuts.

What the Garda report says

The report from the Garda Commissioner, which has been published by Fitzgerald this evening, finds that some former Provisional IRA members have adopted political or community roles.

In addition, a significant number have joined dissident groups and others have engaged in criminality for personal gain.

However, the report states there is “no evidence” that this activity is directed by leadership of organisation. There is also no evidence of the Provisional Army Council meeting or functioning or PIRA military departments operating in this jurisdiction.

It says that some former PIRA associates have access to weaponry, but there is no evidence to contradict the findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission that decommissioning has taken place.

O’Sullivan’s report notes that a “residual leadership” of the PIRA, which continues to exist, is “committed to peaceful means”.

The report states it has occasionally become involved in dealing with legacy issues such as the location of the remains of the Disappeared and the Smithwick Tribunal, which investigated the murder of two RUC officers in 1989.


A man was arrested yesterday in Belfast in relation to McGuigan’s murder.

Last month Sinn Féin’s northern chairman Bobby Storey was one of a number of men arrested and released without charge about the killing.

At the time party leader Gerry Adams said: “The unconditional release of Bobby Storey underlines the contrived nature of the current crisis in the political institutions in the north.”

- additional reporting by Nicky Ryan and Hugh O’Connell 

Read: Man arrested over murder of Kevin McGuigan

Read: “The IRA have gone away. The war is over, they’re not coming back”

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