Provisional IRA no longer engaged in terror, says PSNI chief

No information to show McGuigan murder sanctioned at senior republican level - Hamilton

PSNI Chief Constable issues a statement on his views on the current status of the Provisional IRA, in Belfast, Saturday, August 22nd, 2015. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson

PSNI Chief Constable issues a statement on his views on the current status of the Provisional IRA, in Belfast, Saturday, August 22nd, 2015. Photograph: Amanda Ferguson

 

The Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism, PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton has said.

The PSNI has no information to suggest the murder of Kevin McGuigan was sanctioned or directed at a senior level in the republican movement, he added at a briefing on Saturday afternoon.

Mr Hamilton’s statement came as a response to increased political pressure in Northern Ireland in recent days in the wake of the killing of Mr McGuigan.

DUP leader Peter Robinson had suggested Sinn Féin would have to be excluded from government in the North if it emerged the IRA was involved in murder, given the republican organisation had announced an end to its armed campaign in 2005.

Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt said Sinn Féin’s credibility was “in tatters” following the shooting dead of Mr McGuigan in east Belfast.

Organisational infrastructure

In his statement, Mr Hamilton said the PSNI at this stage assess “that some Provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist but has undergone significant change since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998”.

“Some primarily operational level structures were changed and some elements have been dissolved completely since 2005,” he said.

The police’s assessment was that in the organisational sense the Provisional IRA “does not exist for paramilitary purposes”.

“Nevertheless, we assess that in common with the majority of Northern Ireland paramilitary groups from the period of the conflict, some of the PIRA structure from the 1990s remains broadly in place, although its purposes has radically changed since this period.

“Our assessment indicates that a primary focus of the Provisional IRA is now promoting a peaceful, political republican agenda.

‘Political path’

“It is our assessment that the Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism.”

He said he accepted the bona fides of the Sinn Féin leadership regarding their rejection of violence and pursuit of the peace process, and their assurance that they want to support police in bringing those responsible for crimes to justice.

“We have no information to suggest that violence, as seen in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, was sanctioned or directed at a senior level in the republican movement,” he continued.

“Although still a proscribed organisation, and therefore illegal, we assess that the continuing existence and cohesion of the Provisional IRA hierarchy has enabled the leadership to move the organisation forward within the peace process.

“Some current Provisional IRA and former members continue to engage in a range of criminal activity and occasional violence in the interest of personal gain or personal agendas.”