Former IRA man Kevin McGuigan was shot dead in Belfast in 2015 in what police at the time said was a falling out among “former” members of the Provisional IRA.
At the time police made no suggestion that it may have been sanctioned at a high level of the republican movement.
But speaking to author and journalist Brian Rowan for a book launched last month – ‘Political Purgatory’ – Sir George revealed that the police investigators had indeed believed that senior republicans were involved, something they did not reveal at the time, despite intense media interest.
Sir George said in the book: “McGuigan had been an active member of the IRA and fallen into dispute with other senior republicans.
“Within a short period of time, the investigation team were pursuing a strong line of inquiry that McGuigan had been murdered by members of the IRA.
“As the investigation developed, it became clear that there were reasonable grounds to suspect that this was with the knowledge and concurrence of senior figures within the republican movement.”
In contrast to PSNI statements at the time, Mr Hamilton did not say that “former” IRA members were suspected.
Senior republican Bobby Storey was arrested for questioning in 2015, however nobody has ever been charged.
But Sir George’s revelation prompted TUV leader Jim Allister to note how the admission contrasts sharply with the PSNI assessment of 2015.
Mr Allister said Mr Hamilton’s comments raise “profound and troubling questions for policing and justice in Northern Ireland”.
He added: “If, as Sir George now says, the PSNI had ‘reasonable grounds to suspect’ that the murder took place ‘with the knowledge and concurrence of senior figures within the republican movement’ why didn’t he tell the public this at the time?
“His remarks are the polar opposite of what the PSNI said in 2015 when they told us they had ‘no information’ on whether the murder was sanctioned or not.”
The News Letter asked the PSNI if it now agrees with Sir George that there are “reasonable grounds” to suspect that the murder was “with the knowledge and concurrence of senior figures within the republican movement”.
The PSNI declined to say whether it believes that senior republicans were involved.
Det Supt Jason Murphy simply told the News Letter: “There are no active lines of inquiry in relation to the murder of Kevin McGuigan and we continue to engage with the coroner.”
But Mr Allister was not impressed with the PSNI response.
“There is a widespread perception that republicans are a protected class,” he said.
“In any society everyone must be equal under the law and equally subject to the law.
“Failure to do that fatally undermines confidence in the police and frankly with a response like this one is given to wonder if they even care.”
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