Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams must assure the Irish public the IRA no longer exists and “will never exist again”, according to the Minister for Environment Alan Kelly.
Mr Kelly challenged the Sinn Féin leader to declare the group no longer exists, saying Mr Adams’s comments that the group had gone away “undefeated” had only exacerbated the situation.
Mr Adams must say “they no longer exist and will never exist again,” said Mr Kelly. “I think that would be welcomed by the Irish people.”
Mr Adams insisted at a hunger strike commemoration rally in Dundalk on Sunday that the IRA had not been involved in the killing of former IRA member Kevin McGuigan, saying the group had “gone away” in the interests of the peace process.
The Sinn Féin leader was responding to comments by PSNI chief constable George Hamilton who said on Saturday that "some Provisional IRA organisational infrastructure continues to exist".
“What we need to hear is that members of the IRA are not involved in murder, in drugs, in a whole load of other criminal activities,” said the Minister on Monday morning.
“I come from a generation of remembering all the atrocities as I was growing up and thankfully we’ve gone past all of that.”
“What he needs to say is that they actually don’t exist anymore and I challenge him to say that. Not that they have gone away, not they have decommissioned, we know all of that.”
Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly on Monday echoed comments made by Mr Adams over the weekend that the IRA no longer exists, adding the group has “left the State”.
Mr Kelly told RTÉ Radio One's Morning Ireland that evidence over the past decade showed the IRA had not been active.
“The IRA is gone away and it isn’t coming back,” said Mr Kelly, adding that he agreed with the chief constable’s assessment that the Action Against Drugs group was linked to the killing of Mr McGuigan.
He said the group was based in north Belfast and was involved in extortion including “the extortion of other drugs dealers”.
“These are people that need to be taken off the streets and anyone involved in either of these two killings needs to be taken off the streets as well,” he said.
However, the Sinn Féin MLA disagreed with Mr Hamilton's statement that some Provisional IRA "organisational infrastructure" had continued to exist since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998.
“He’s wrong because the IRA has left the State, the IRA has gone,” he said. “There are many Republicans, including myself, who were in the IRA, who joined Sinn Féin, who are involved with the peace process and put all our energies into that.”
Gerry Kelly suggested journalists examine the evidence that those involved in the recent murders were “not involved with the peace process” and were “anti-process”. He also condemned those responsible for the death of Mr McGuigan.
“To be very clear so there is no ambiguity, whoever was involved, whatever they claim for themselves in terms of the two killings and the two families who are now grieving, this society has moved past killing and should have moved passed killing.
“We should be joining together to make sure that everybody is of one voice and that the people who were involved in these killings be taken off the street.”
Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin said the recent murders in Northern Ireland exposed the “interchangability” of Sinn Féin and IRA members.
Mr Martin said there would be “absolute uproar” if it emerged that there was an armed wing attached to Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael or Labour.
“Yet the electorate here and the people here are invited to accept this sort of situation. And let’s be clear, there is a purpose for the IRA. It’s about community control,” he said.
“The murders of the last two to three weeks have, if you like, removed the veil, exposed the reality of what actually is the situation in terms of the IRA and Sinn Féin, the interchangability of its members and its offices in regard to supporting the political project that is Sin Fein.”
Mr Martin told RTÉ’s Today programme Sinn Féin could be “very equivocal” when it came to accepting the word of the PSNI. It laid the charge of political policing when its own members were arrested and questioned, he said.
“I don’t believe Sinn Féin. I don’t trust them,” he added.
The Fianna Fáil leader said everyone had a stake in the peace process. It did not belong to Sinn Féin.
He called on Government and British government ministers to meet with parties in Northern Ireland “as a matter of urgency”.
He said a review of the degree to which the IRA was exercising influence in Northern Ireland had to take place.
Sinn Féin TD Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said, with an election looming in the Republic, it was no surprise that other parties were making “highly cynical and wholly self-serving” attacks on the party.
“Let me be clear, the IRA is gone. It no longer exists. This has been in evidence over the past number of years.
“Let me also be clear, Sinn Féin, like all other parties, are in these institutions on the basis of our mandate. It is the people who support us, that elect us to institutions north and south. Their rights cannot be undermined by other political parties or external commentary.”