A former British agent inside the Provisional IRA said that former members of the organisation would not have dared carry out the recent murder of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast without advance approval from their leadership.
Martin McGartland’s claims, if true, undermine official police assessments of the murder which frame it as having been carried out by former IRA members without official sanction.
It is now widely held to have been a revenge attack for the murder of another former IRA man, Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison, in May.
Asked if it was fair for Sinn Fein to carry the blame for Mr McGuigan’s murder, Mr McGartland insisted it was.
“Absolutely – because anyone who believes that Sinn Fein have in some way broken their ties with the IRA is being extremely naive,” he told the News Letter.
A former Special Branch agent in the IRA, Mr McGartland has written a book about his exploits, 50 Dead Men Walking, which was made into a major film.
“As a person who infiltrated the IRA on behalf of the British establishment and having had close contact with senior IRA members and being aware of how the organisation functions, I can say that there is not one individual or a group of individuals, whether ex or former members, would dare carry out such a bold and blatant assassination of one of their former comrades without both the advance approval and authority of the leadership,” he said.
“To be frank, they know the IRA code concerning carrying out ‘operations’ without prior approval of IRA leadership would result in severe consequences – possibly death – from the IRA.”
Every IRA member he came into contact with – and many besides – was “absolutely petrified” of the IRA’s disciplinary department and more importantly the IRA’s internal security unit or ‘nutting squad’.
He added: “In my humble opinion, I believe that if the DUP do not take decisive action against Sinn Fein, it will result in the IRA becoming a great deal more ruthless and bold, and I believe they will murder more individuals who they believe have crossed them.”
He rejected International Monitoring Commission reports that the IRA ceased military operations years ago.
“My view is that they got that wrong,” he said, insisting that people had still good reason to fear it.
Persisting IRA machinery was clearly seen, he said, in the aftermath of the murder of Robert McCartney in a Belfast pub in 2005; it was widely reported that the IRA had forensically cleaned the pub in the wake of the murder.
“It is no coincidence that most, if not all, of the witnesses in the bar had claimed they were either in the toilet or on their mobile phones,” he said.
Mr McGartland was shot six times outside his home in England in 1999. A Luger pistol was later found but he believes there has been “a massive cover-up” about the gun’s origins as the authorities “want to avoid blaming the IRA for the attack”.
Regarding the possible revocation of IRA bomber Sean Kelly’s early release licence, he noted that in the Assembly in 2001 Peter Robinson – reading from a Northumbria police letter – named the “two well-known Provisional IRA members” arrested for the attempted murder of Mr McGartland. However, “even with all of that evidence” the Secretary of State considered there had been no breach of the IRA ceasefire, he said.
The IRA will “continue to be protected and kept out of jail,” by the UK Government and its security agencies, he said. “They can do no wrong. They can walk on water.”
Sinn Fein offered no comment on his claims.
The PSNI said they had “nothing to add” to what they have already said about Mr McGuigan’s murder.