It has taken BBC Spotlight to uncover a joint PSNI and MI5 assessment of the IRA, which finds that the terror group’s Army Council is still in existence.
The paramilitary organisation still has access to arms and is secretly gathering intelligence.
The first question that arises from this discovery relates to the Independent Reporting Commission.
What is the point of this body? It either did not have access to this report, which the BBC says is from last summer, or it did, but still proceeded to issue a report on paramilitaries earlier this month that did not mention such a security force assessment, and instead read at points like social work.
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The IRC has in recent reports intoned on matters including Brexit, deprivation and the lack of devolution (but not mentioned that it was brought down by Sinn Fein blackmail).
When the recent feeble IRC report came out, this newspaper pointed out (see link below) the woolly aims of the organisation, including “stable and inclusive devolved government”.
Why did unionists agree to such parameters, so that the IRC is able to miss such a serious assessment of the IRA from the security forces?
Both the DUP and Ulster Unionists agreed to return to Stormont without toughening up any of these bodies or insisting on a harder security response to dissident terrorists.
They allowed Sinn Fein to dictate an Irish language act, when they should have come together to refuse to join any power sharing executive founded on preconditions. Now a disastrous, de-stabilising precedent has been set.
The British government is also deeply culpable in this political mess. It failed to give any support to unionists, it failed ever to challenge the Irish government’s partisanship, and Boris Johnson installed Julian Smith as secretary of state.
All eyes today will be on how Downing Street and the biggest unionist party, the DUP, respond to such a high level assessment that the IRA, to which Sinn Fein has been inextricably linked, is still in existence, despite SF saying it isn’t.
Editorial November 18: Northern Ireland needs a new oversight body to assess the threat of terrorists
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