McGuinness denies Provisional IRA role in kidnap


Six men remain in custody today in connection with a Belfast abduction that has been blamed on the Provisional IRA.

Four were arrested on Friday evening when their van was stopped in Castle Street.

Police officers found a fifth man, Mr Bobby Tohill, seriously injured in the van. He had been abducted from a bar. Two more men were arrested yesterday afternoon.

Mr Tohill (47) has been linked with the Real IRA and is understood to have been targeted before by republican paramilitaries.He is said to be in a stable condition in hospital.

The PSNI Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, said he believed the Provisional IRA were responsible for Mr Tohill's abduction. "I'm also clear, as we have said quite recently, that the punishment beatings that go on in republican areas are also carried out by the Provisional IRA."

However, Sinn Fein's Mr Martin McGuinness today denied the Provisionals were involved. "We have clearly stated we are opposed to violence and threats," he said today. "The IRA are innocent until proved guilty."

He accepted that if it were proved Provisional IRA members were involved, it would constitute a serious breach of the organisation's ceasefire pledges.

The Minister for Justice, Mr  Michael McDowell, condemned the incident and said he believed the Provisionals were responsible. He accused Sinn Féin and the IRA of "trying to have a private army, a private police force and to pretend it is on a sort of military ceasefire, and having the equivalent of police state within the state itself."

"Sinn Féin and the IRA have been effectively running large areas of Northern Ireland on the basis of punishment beatings as they are called, which are in fact mutilation and torture of young men," he said this afternoon.  "Breaking people's legs, while at the same time going into Dáil Éireann and making speeches about human rights is vomit-making."