Army Council overseeing PIRA and Sinn Féin: MI5 and PSNI

Theresa Villiers

Theresa Villiers

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The IRA Army Council remains in existence and “oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy,” albeit one bearing a wholly political focus.

That’s according to a new assessment of paramilitary groupings in Northern Ireland drafted by MI5 and the PSNI, which was commissioned by Secretary of State Theresa Villiers in the wake of the ‘Jock’ Davison and Kevin McGuigan murders earlier this year.

The report claims the Provos still have access to guns and explosives but haven’t looked for new weaponry or members since the last IMC report in 2011.

It says IRA members have been directed to actively support Sinn Féin but that members are also involved in gathering information on the activities of dissident republicans and are also trying to identify informers.

The report also claims: “Individual PIRA members remain involved in criminal activity, such as large scale smuggling, and there have been isolated incidents of violence, including murders.

“The investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan is still ongoing; however, we judge that the assessment put forward by the Chief Constable in his public statement on August 22 remains accurate.”

However, the report claims the mainstream republican movement is committed to peace.

“The PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall.

“It is out firm assessment that PIRA’s leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means.

“The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state or its representatives.

“There have only been very limited indications of dissent to date and we judge that this has been addressed effectively by the leadership.”

Elsewhere, the report says all of the main groups operating during the Troubles remain in existence including the UVF, UDA, Red Hand Commando and INLA.

But while structures remain in place none are planning terrorist attacks, the report says.

According to MI5 and the PSNI the leadership of the UVF and the UDA are committed to leaving violent crime behind in favour of “community focused initiatives” but both organisations have limited control over their own memberships.

Referring to the INLA the report says its structures remain in place and that whilst leadership figures have recognised the “futility of violence [in] advancing political goals” members are still heavily involved in criminality.

MI5 and the PSNI also think the INLA might still be recruiting; and: “There is some cooperation between INLA members and DRs [dissident republicans], which includes provision of weaponry and coordination of criminality and paramilitary-style assaults. INLA is otherwise focused principally on criminal activity for the personal gain of its membership.”