Two former Provisional IRA members have questioned “why politicians were surprised to hear the Army Council still exists”.
Anthony McIntyre, a former PIRA member turned writer and historian, said it remains “to run the IRA and to ensure its members remain committed to whatever Gerry Adams’ political career demands, and to manage the finances”.
Responding to Tuesday’s publication of the paramilitary assessment report commissioned by the Secretary of State Theresa Villiers, which suggested IRA members believe the body that directed the IRA’s campaign of violence is now directing Sinn Féin’s strategy, Mr McIntyre said: “The whole notion that the Army Council runs both Sinn Fein and the IRA is central to provisional thinking.
“In 1977 the staff report which was caught with Seamus Twomey (IRA chief-of-staff) when he was arrested outlined the structures and how it all came under army control. There is nothing new about this.
“IRA members have to believe that anyway because any time Adams had difficulty or thought there were going to be problems getting something over the line he would always say this is an army initiative as well.”
Former hunger striker Gerard Hodgins said “the structure that was there 20 years ago is completely gone”.
He said he believed the Army Council now managed “finance and intelligence in the organisation”.
“My view on it is they have diversified all the resources of the PIRA into semi-legitimate or dodgy business deals.”
He added: “I thought the report was a fudge that says the bad guys of the PIRA have changed into the butterflies of the Royal Ulster Provisionals.”
He said information to compile the report had been gathered from “MI5 touts, and there are plenty of those”.
Mr Hodgins said, as detailed in the report, he did not believe the PIRA were recruiting.
“If you went to any of the Provos now about, for example, a noisy neighbour, the stuff they used to do, they will tell you to go to the police.”
However, Mr McIntyre is not so convinced the IRA are not recruiting.
“If they find talent they will probably recruit,” he said. “I think the type they are probably recruiting now are graduates.
“They would take them into Sinn Fein and tell them they had an army brief.”