IRA ‘army council’ still exists but has ‘wholly political focus’

Posted By: October 20, 2015

BBC. NI. October 20, 2015

The IRA’s ruling body, the ‘army council’ still exists, but has a “wholly political focus”, the Northern Ireland secretary has said.

Theresa Villiers was detailing the findings of an official assessment of paramilitary activity in NI.

Following her statement, the DUP said its ministers who resigned from Stormont would now return to office.

They resigned when police blamed members of the IRA for killing a man in Belfast in August.

In short: Assessment of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland

DUP leader Peter Robinson will resume his job as Northern Ireland first minister after stepping aside in September.

He said: “After all this time there shouldn’t be any structures and there shouldn’t be an army council, but it really is a distinction without a difference to say there’s something special about the army council being involved.

“Does somebody think the people in the army council have different fingerprints than the people who are in the leadership of Sinn Fein? I don’t, never have.”

The report into paramilitarism in Northern Ireland was commissioned following the murder of Kevin McGuigan Sr.

The police’s belief that current IRA members were involved in the killing led to a political crisis.

Sinn Féin insists that the Provisional IRA has gone away and no longer exists.

The report was compiled by the police and the security service, MI5.

Image caption The report assessed the current status of paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland
Speaking in the House of Commons, she said the assessment showed the IRA and other main paramilitary groups that operated during the Troubles still existed.

The Northern Ireland secretary said that even if these groups wanted to return to terrorism “they would be unable to resurrect the capability demonstrated at their peak”.

Key points of the report

    • While all the main republican and loyalist paramilitary groups from the Troubles still exist, their leaderships are, “to different degrees”, committed to peaceful means
    • They are still organised along militaristic lines, but labels like “brigades” or “army council” make them “look more prepared for a campaign of violence than they are”
    • None of these groups is planning or conducting terrorist attacks, and even if they wanted, they would be “unable to resurrect the capability demonstrated at their peak”
    • The most serious current terrorist threat comes from dissident republicans
    • Individual members of paramilitary groups still represent a threat to national security and are engaged in organised crime
Ms Villiers said while the security assessment states that Provisional IRA members believe that the ‘army council’ oversees both the IRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy, it judges this has a “wholly political focus”.

Image caption Ms Villiers said the assessment showed the IRA and other main paramilitary groups that operated during the Troubles still existed
The Northern Ireland secretary told MPs the police and MI5 assessment showed that the IRA “is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state”.

She added that some individual IRA members remain involved in criminal activity, such as large scale smuggling.