Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the IRA does not exist after Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that an IRA Provisional Army Council still oversees the party.
Speaking at an event in Dundalk, Co Louth, she was asked if the IRA still exists: “The reality is that we now live in a peaceful dispensation, the war is over, the IRA has gone away and democracy is the order of the day and there’s no dispute around that.”
“I know Drew Harris has said he will work with any party with a democratic mandate and that’s exactly as it should be.”
"Everyone knows that republicans are absolutely committed to democracy and to the peace process. Drew Harris, the PSNI and others also know that Sinn Fein members including Michelle O'Neill have actually been threatened by dangerous elements and by so-called dissident elements.
“The war is over and the IRA is off the stage. The only threat now is so called dissident elements that actually threaten Sinn Féin because we support the police service.”
Earlier on Friday, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that the Garda "does not differ" from the assessment of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that the Provisional Army Council still oversees both Sinn Féin and the IRA.
At a Garda passing out ceremony for 200 new members of the force in the Garda College, Templemore, Co Tipperary, Mr Harris confirmed the Garda's view of the relationship between the Provisional Army Council, the IRA and Sinn Féin was the same as the PSNI.
“I am aware of the PSNI and British security service’s assessment and we do not differ from that view,” said Mr Harris.
In a 2015 report commissioned by the British government on the status of Irish terrorist groups, and which was written by the PSNI and MI5, it was stated the Provisional Army Council still existed, as did the Provisional IRA (PIRA), though in a smaller form and committed to the peace process.
The report further stated that the Provisional Army Council still strategically oversaw both the IRA and Sinn Féin.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar called on the Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald to publicly state if her party has cut links with the IRA Provisional Army Council.
Mr Varadkar, asked Ms McDonald does not disband the Provisional Army Council and the IRA or sever links with them.
He tweeted: “Why doesn’t McDonald disband the Army Council and the PIRA or if she cannot, repudiate them and sever all links and do so publicly and unequivocally?”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said the issue of whether or not the IRA Provisional Army Council still oversees Sinn Féin is not going to go away.
He tweeted: “No matter how hard Sinn Féin representatives try to spin in the media, and no matter how aggressively their trolls try to bully critics on social media, the inconvenient truth keeps popping up. These are real issues that aren’t going away.”
Sinn Féin said the analysis was “nonsense” and they believed it would “not be lost on people” that it was being repeated at the present time.
“On national security matters and matters around the security of the State, it’s my obligation to report those into the Government, as you would expect me to do in the first place,” Mr Harris said.
“Also then, we have contributed to the IRC [Independent Reporting Commission] reporting on the status of various paramilitary groups. And we would hold then with their opinion on these matters.”
No outside direction
Asked if he would have an issue with working with a Sinn Féin minister for justice, in the event the party was part of the next government, Commissioner Harris said “in the end I’m a public servant”.
“In law I have heavy responsibilities in protecting the people of Ireland; preventing and protecting crime and we will work whatever minister to achieve those aims.”
When asked about the PSNI’s analysis Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan, said he was satisfied from “facts within my own knowledge” that his Fine Gael party would not be part of any government involving Sinn Féin.
“I’m not satisfied as to the disposition of that party towards the democratic process. I believe it’s important whatever ministers serve in the next Government that they do so in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ireland and are not subject to any direction from outside forces.” – Additional reporting PA