Unionists warn against ‘fudging’ response to IRA allegations

UUP threatens to withdraw from Executive over paramilitary link in McGuigan murder

DUP MP  Jeffrey Donaldson. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson. File photograph: Eric Luke/The Irish Times

 

Unionist politicians have warned there must be no “fudging” of the response to alleged IRA involvement in the killing of republican Kevin McGuigan in Belfast.

After a day when political rivals tried to increase pressure on Sinn Féin over the murder, the Ulster Unionist Party last night threatened to withdraw from the Northern Executive over the alleged IRA role.

In the strongest comments from the Coalition on the killing so far, Tánaiste Joan Burton said the IRA was still linked to “murdering and racketeering” and that Sinn Féin cannot deny all knowledge of its criminality or existence.

A DUP delegation will meet Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers tomorrow to discuss Mr McGuigan’s killing and the statement by Police Service of Northern Ireland Chief Constable George Hamilton that the IRA still exists and some of its members were involved in the murder.

He said there was no evidence the IRA leadership sanctioned the killing.

A UUP delegation met Ms Villiers at Stormont yesterday.

Party leader Mike Nesbitt afterwards said it was considering removing its Minister, Danny Kennedy, from the Executive because of its concerns over the murder.

Credibility

The PSNI has arrested 10 people in connection with the killing but no one has been charged. Nine were released, while one man was charged with firearms offences and remanded in custody.

Ms Villiers said it was of “grave concern” Mr McGuigan was murdered in apparent revenge for the murder in early May of former senior IRA figure Gerard “Jock” Davison.

“All of that is worrying. But we do have to look at the evidence and the facts and the chief constable of the PSNI was very clear at the weekend there isn’t evidence that this crime was sanctioned or authorised by the Provisional IRA as an organisation,” she added.

Democracy and consent

A senior DUP source said there was serious concern that senior IRA figures with links to the Sinn Féin leadership of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness could be implicated in the McGuigan killing.

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson warned of “a very serious situation which is distinguished from any previous crisis in that the PSNI are very clear in their assessment that PIRA members have been involved in murder”.

“There can be no fudging of this issue and we will take every possible step to ensure the democratic process is not corrupted,” he added.

While Ms Burton accepted the statements of the PSNI and Garda that the IRA was “no longer involved in terrorist activity”, she said it still posed a risk to communities in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Féin rejected her comments, saying “the organisation she refers to no longer exists” and it had “repeatedly said anyone with knowledge of criminality should bring any relevant information” to the PSNI or the Garda.