A woman whose son was murdered by the IRA nine years after the Good Friday Agreement has challenged Sinn Fein to explain the status of the terror group, after police insisted it is still intact.
Briege Quinn from Cullyhanna in south Armagh was speaking to the News Letter after the PSNI affirmed that the 2015 government finding, that the IRA Army Council was still overseeing Sinn Fein, remains unchanged.
The government’s 2015 report concluded that the IRA, though much reduced in scale and “committed to the peace process”, still has “specific” departments and “regional command structures”, gathers intelligence, retains weapons and may engage in “isolated violence” including murder.
The PSNI confirmed its assessment after the Independent Review Commission (IRC) failed to mention the IRA in its latest report last week.
Mrs Quinn’s son Paul, 21, was lured to a farm across the border near Castleblayney and beaten to death by a gang of men on October 20, 2007. Every bone in his body had been broken. The International Monitoring Commission blamed the IRA.
Speaking about the latest PSNI assessment of the IRA, Mrs Quinn said: “The only thing I know is that when Paul was murdered in 2007 Conor Murphy MLA for South Armagh said he spoke to the IRA and they gave him good assurances that they didn’t do it.
“But how could he have spoken to the IRA when there was supposed to be no IRA? I would just like to ask Conor Murphy who he spoke to. The Quinn family are awaiting his answers.”
Sinn Fein offered no response to her questions.
Many people attended Paul’s anniversary mass last month, and visited their home, she said, and there were many cards, calls and donations for flowers for his grave, she added. One lady put a photograph up during a Novena at Clonard in Belfast. “There are some very good people out there.”
Soon after Paul Quinn’s death, then-Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams declared the IRA were innocent.
Just after the murder, the Quinn family told the BBC their son was no criminal and his only crime was to fall out with the son of a local IRA leader.
Speaking to the BBC, then-Sinn Fein MP for the area Conor Murphy (above) insisted it was not correct to say local fuel smuggling is controlled by current or former IRA members.
When the BBC put it to him that the Quinn family insisted Paul was not involved in criminality but had simply fallen foul of the son of a local IRA leader, Mr Murphy replied: “I have spoken to the IRA in his area and I am satisfied with the assurances they gave me, very solid assurances, that they weren’t involved in his death.”
However a leading victims’ campaigner has asked how can there be integrity in the democratic process if the second largest party in Northern Ireland continues to be overseen by the IRA.
Kenny Donaldson, spokesman for Innocent Victims United, was speaking after the PSNI reaffirmed a 2015 government assessment that the terror group remains active and still oversees strategy for Sinn Fein.
“Confirmation by the PSNI that the 2015 assessment of the Provisional IRA’s Army Council and its relationship in directing Sinn Fein policy should be considered a matter of deep concern,” he said.
“Whilst this remains the case, Sinn Fein are not a democratic political party, rather they continue to be the political mouthpiece for the Provisional IRA.
“The IRC surely has a role and responsibility to monitor the activities of the Provisional IRA and its members and to report on any transition being made. How can there be integrity in our democratic process if the policy of airbrushing continues?
“Let’s be clear, the Provisional IRA are linked to well over 40 murders since the ceasefires, individual members have been embroiled in criminal racketeering and others have become involved in other republican militant organisations.
“We want to see an end to the coercive influence of terrorist/paramilitary organisations from across the board, republican and loyalist, but we also demand that the establishment cases their policy to turning a blind eye to the infecting of our democratic process by malign influences.”
Sinn Fein did not offer any response.
The PSNI confirmed its current assessment to the News Letter – that the IRA still oversees Sinn Fein – last week.
It made the statement only days after the paramilitary monitoring panel, the Independent Review Commission (IRC), in its report last week, detailed ongoing criminality by the UVF and UDA, but failed to even mention the IRA or the INLA.
“The IRC report is published independently by the Independent Review Commission and the PSNI does not determine the contents of the report,” the PSNI said. “With regards to PIRA, there has been no change since the Paramilitary Assessment in 2015.”
The government’s Paramilitary Assessment in 2015 – prompted by the murder of Kevin McGuigan by members of the IRA – found that “PIRA members believe that the PAC [Provisional IRA Army Council] oversees both PIRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy”.
Sinn Fein MP Mickey Brady said: “The IRA is gone and not coming back.” The focus of unionists should be on bringing an end to organised crime by loyalists and not “cosying” up to them in electoral pacts, he added.