Ex-top detective: In IRA’s eyes, McGuigan murder is not breaking ceasefire

Norman Baxter questioned the credibility of claims that the IRA has gone
Norman Baxter questioned the credibility of claims that the IRA has gone

A retired high-ranking PSNI detective has said that from the point of view of the IRA itself, the gunning down of a republican would not count as a ceasefire breach.

Norman Baxter said that because the group was only carrying out violence against others within its own community, the republican paramilitaries would regard it merely as a kind of “family” matter.

Former Detective Chief Superintendant Baxter, who retired around seven years ago, said: “There have been a number of things over the years that have pointed towards the continued existence of the Provisional IRA.”

This includes the killing of Catholic civilian Robert McCartney in 2005, and the shooting dead of ex-Sinn Fein figure Denis Donaldson the following year after he was found to have been co-operating with the security forces.

“As an organisation, they still continue to function, both in terms of disciplining communities and keeping themselves in a position whereby they have the materials to carry out armed actions.

“So, in that sense, they have never gone away. What seems to have happened over the years is that they have limited their violent actions to their own community.”

He added: “The murder of McGuigan falls within that internal family housekeeping...

“In other words, the ceasefire – in their terms – applies only to armed actions against the enemy.”

The IRA issued a statement in 2005, which read: “The leadership of Oglaigh na hEireann has formally ordered an end to the armed campaign.

“This will take effect from 4pm [1600 BST] this afternoon [Thursday July 28].

“All IRA units have been ordered to dump arms.

“All volunteers have been instructed to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively peaceful means.”

It also goes on to declare: “Volunteers must not engage in any other activities whatsoever.”

Gerry Kelly referred to this statement to the media on Thursday night, when he asserted that the IRA has “left the stage”.

Mr Baxter said: “The question is: do the population believe that a terror organisation that murdered almost 2,000 people [can be] trusted to say they went away?

“What happened to all their money, what happened to their property, what happened to their weapons?”

Asked if he imagine further such activities in five or 10 years’ time, he said: “I think they’ll always exist.

“It’s a perpetual thing. As each generation goes past, it’ll get smaller and weaker again, as it did between the 1930s and 1950s.”

However he said there will “always be this nub of families” who are still involved.

Asked if he still feels a command structure may still be in place, he said that the “IRA-Sinn Fein movement” had historically co-ordinated their actions when it came to violence on the one hand and politics on the other.

“If you believe the IRA still exists, then there has to be an Army council,” he said.

“Both wings of the republican movement act in unison. So one would have expected a political consideration to be given to the killing of Kevin McGuigan – if it was sanctioned.”

However on this last question, he said he simply does not know the answer.