– Speaking on the Independent Reporting Commission Bill 2017 he said that the Army Council decides Sinn Féin strategy –

Fianna Fáil TD for Louth and East Meath Declan Breathnach launched an attack in the Dáil on Sinn Féin when speaking on the Independent Reporting Commission Bill 2017. The bill creates a new monitoring body to review and report on any paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

“The existence of the IRA, its highly lucrative criminal network and role in setting the political agenda raises fundamental questions for Sinn Féin. We must ensure there is no role for such armed groups in a democratic state.”

“It is not credible for Gerry Adams to say that Sinn Fein has “no special responsibility” for the IRA. They are one and the same thing and any objective commentator or historian recognises that behind the spin that is a fact.”

“The number of paramilitary incidents is on the up and this cannot be disputed.”

“Northern Ireland remains engulfed in yet another political crisis that has led to a protracted paralysis in the institutions. The lack of progress in getting the institutions up and running is deeply disappointing and underlines our concerns that zero sum politics is sustaining a fertile ground for paramilitaries.”
-Ends-

Johanna Walsh, Office of Declan Breathnach T.D., Leinster House, Dublin 2

(T) 01 6183549 (Email) declan.breathnach@oireachtas.ie

Independent Reporting Commission Bill 2017 – Notes

Fianna Fáil supports this legislation which is one of the key outcomes of the Fresh Start agreement of November 2015. The bill creates a new monitoring body to review and report on any paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland. It is a damning indictment of Sinn Fein and the DUP that such a body is still required almost 20 years on from the Good Friday Agreement. The peace process was always about more than the absence of violence. However the zero sum attitudes taken by the two main parties, which has led to the current impasse in Stormont, has hobbled the immense potential and optimism of the GFA. This sterile political environment has allowed paramilitaries to continue to blight Northern Ireland in both communities. This particular bill was necessitated by the M15/PSNI confirmation of the continued existence of the IRA and their role in formulating Sinn Féin policy. Sinn Féin has fundamental questions to answer around their links to the IRA which has no part in a democratic state. It’s now time for Sinn Fein and DUP to move beyond tribal partisanship and work to ensure Northern Ireland is capable of addressing the challenge of Brexit.

Key Points

  • The existence of the IRA, its highly lucrative criminal network and role in setting the political agenda raises fundamental questions for Sinn Féin. It must ensure there is no role for such armed groups in a democratic state.

 

  • The fact we are still dealing with paramilitarism in 2017 is a sad reflection on Northern politics. The zero sum attitudes of Sinn Féin and the DUP has stifled development and fostered a deepening cynicism leaving many communities behind. These communities are ripe territories for paramilitary groups to operate from.

 

  • The current crisis is the latest in an exhausting series of difficulties. In the face of Brexit the most serious geo-political challenge this island has faced in generations the Northern Executive remains in deep freeze. The parties have to get their act together and find a compromise recognising it involves movement on both sides.

Independent Reporting Commission

  • The purpose of the IRC is to promote progress towards ending paramilitary activity connected with Northern Ireland, in the interests of long-term peace and stability and stable and inclusive devolved government in Northern Ireland
  • An international agreement between the Irish and British Governments was signed on 13 September 2016 and provides for the establishment of the IRC as an independent body. The IRC will need to be established in the domestic law of each jurisdiction, as appropriate.
  • The nominations for membership of the IRC have been announced by the Irish and British Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive.
  • The Government has nominated Mr. Tim O’Connor, a former Secretary to the President. The British Government has nominated Mr. Mitchell Reiss and the NI Executive has nominated Ms Monica McWilliams and Mr. John McBurney.

Continued existence of the Prov IRA

  • In July 2005 the IRA formally ended its armed campaign and ordered all volunteers to “assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means. Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.” It subsequently decommissioned in September 2005.

 

  • The St. Andrews agreement in October 2006 saw Sinn Fein agree to the PSNI and the re-establishment of the Northern Assembly in May 2007 followings its suspension in 2003 after the Sinn Fein spy ring controversy.

 

  • However in the intervening years a number of serious incidents have occurred to underline the fact that the IRA has not as Gerry Adams put it “gone away”. Events such as the brutal murder of Paul Quinn in October 2007 in Co. Monaghan, revelations of systematic cover up of sex abuse in republican ranks and the recent tit for tat murders expose a continued presence.

 

  • The political crisis that led to the 2015 Fresh start agreement arose from the investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August 2015 which was believed to be retaliation for the murder of Jock Davison (a senior republican involved in the murder of Robert McCartney in 2005) earlier that summer. The investigation revealed the PSNI’s belief that the IRA continued to exist and were possibly involved in the murder.

 

  • Subsequently the Garda Commissioner backtracked on a February 2015 letter to state her belief that the IRA existed. Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Theresa Villiers also confirmed she believed it existed. SF Northern Chair Bobby Storey was arrested but not charged in relation to the murder.

 

  • It is not credible for Gerry Adams to say that Sinn Fein has “no special responsibility” for the IRA. They are one and the same thing and any objective commentator or historian recognises that behind the spin that is a fact.

 

  • In October 2015 MI5/PSNI issued a report on paramilitary activity that was requested arising from the McGuigan murder. It reached very disturbing conclusions about the continued existence of the Provisional IRA, its army council, on-going role in criminality, and the belief of PIRA members that the army council set out strategy for both the IRA and Sinn Féin.

 

  • The fact that the Army council decides Sinn Féin strategy is profoundly anti-democratic, as it means that a political party operating in both jurisdictions is being directed by an illegal armed gang. There is absolutely no space for that in a democracy.

 

  • A separate Garda report set out how €28m of criminal assets was extracted by CAB from 50 IRA members since 1996. This is part of a broader criminal empire worth a total of €500m or €70m per annum. Where does this money go to?

Current Political Crisis

  • Northern Ireland remains engulfed in yet another political crisis that has led to a protracted paralysis in the institutions. The lack of progress in getting the institutions up and running is deeply disappointing and underlines our concerns that zero sum politics is sustaining a fertile ground for paramilitaries.  Let me quote some figures of paramilitary incidents by both Loyalist and Republican Groups:-   *

 

  • Due to the tight numbers in the House of Commons the Tory government is reliant on DUP support. The DUP have secured a deal that sees £1bn over two years and further flexibility around £500m already committed. It appears to by-pass the Barnett formula used to allocate funding across the component nations of the UK. This has drawn criticism from other devolved administrations.

 

  • We hope that a focus is placed on key Stormont House Fresh start measure such as the A5 motorway to Derry that will be a key piece of infrastructure for the Norther West of the country. In addition the Narrow Water Bridge should be completed. The Irish government should uphold its commitment on those measures.

 

  • The botched Renewable Heat Incentive scheme could cost up to £490m has acted as the catalyst for the crisis. However behind the immediate problems lie a deeper malaise that has afflicted the institutions over the past number of years. The political system has to move on from this addiction to crisis politics.

 

  • Over the past few years there have been annual problems with the institutions punctuated by a series of new agreements and arrangements designed to keep the system ticking over. Since 2013 alone there has been the Haass Talks, Stormont House and Fresh Start agreements aiming to re-invigorate a stagnant political process.

 

  • History has shown it requires both governments to fully and honestly engage in order to keep the peace process moving forward. The DUP’s leverage cannot be allowed to stymie progress and undermine long established British policy for the sake of short term political gain. Likewise Sinn Féin have painted themselves into a corner and must have the honesty to agree a way out of the impasse.

 

  • With Brexit looming all parties need to work together to ensure there is no hard border. It’s a time for real maturity and leadership for all of the island of Ireland.

Report on Parimilatary Activities below

extract-on-paramilitary-incidents