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IRA army council ‘redundant’

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

by DAN KEENAN THE IRA army council is neither functional nor operational and poses no threat to constitutional politics now or in the future, the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) has reported. However, the DUP is pushing for further assurances before accepting that devolution of justice powers is timely. The British and Irish governments have welcomed the special IMC report, published yesterday, and pressed politicians at Stormont to accept it. Ministers in Dublin, Belfast and London all pressed for fresh efforts to end months of stalemate at Stormont with the DUP and Sinn Féin divided over a series of issues, principally the transfer of justice powers. British prime minister Gordon Brown said: “I believe that this will provide reassurance and hope for everybody.” Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern said agreement between republicans and unionists on devolution of policing “would be clearly in the interests of the people they serve”. Northern Secretary Shaun Woodward said it was clear the IRA army council was now “redundant” and he urged politicians to move on from debating its status. DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson called for the “republican leadership” to make it clear the army council had permanently stood down. Reacting to this, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said: “The issue of the IRA has been dealt with definitively. All concerns have been met. This issue is gone.” Mr Adams again insisted republicans were totally committed to peaceful, political methods. Mr Robinson did accept that the IMC findings represented significant progress. But he claimed the IRA had reached the line set by unionists without crossing it. “While the IMC indicates that the army council is no longer operational or functional, an essential part of building confidence in the community is that the army council has moved from a body that is not meeting to one that will never meet again,” he said. “The unionist community needs to be convinced by the republican leadership that the IRA is out of business for good.” He said confirmation that the organisation is “being allowed to wither away” is welcome, but more assurance was needed before sufficient community confidence existed to enable justice devolution. Mr Adams responded: “The IRA left the stage some time ago. And while you know Sinn Féin’s position on the IMC, that body confirmed that. We are committed to making these institutions work in the interests of all our people. “Sinn Féin and the DUP will meet [this morning] to discuss outstanding issues. Sinn Féin is entering these discussions to secure progress.” Jim Allister, the independent unionist who quit the DUP over its decision to share power with Sinn Féin, criticised the IMC as a poodle of the two governments and accused his former party of living in a wonderland. “The duty of government and its agencies is to pursue [the IRA] for the vile crimes they committed, rather than downplaying the telling fact that their wicked army council still exists,” he said. Ulster Unionist deputy leader Danny Kennedy claimed the IMC “is not the only arbiter” of paramilitary status and restated his party’s belief that consideration of justice devolution was premature in the minds of many unionists. The SDLP said controversy over the IRA army council “should not be used as an excuse to prevent progress to the completion of devolution”. Party leader Mark Durkan said that to do so only aided republican dissident groups. “The more any party delays this, the more that party plays into the hands of these illegal and all-too-active groups,” he said.

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