No-one has been surprised with the Secretary of State’s statement confirming the continuance of PIRA, its Army Council, some of its “departments”, its access to weapons, its involvement in murders (plural) and its oversight of the activities of Sinn Fein, but many will be shocked by the DUP response.
Not so long ago the existence of unrepentant terrorists in government was the reason why the DUP opposed the Belfast Agreement.
Not so long ago Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson were calling Ulster Unionist Council meetings demanding that unionists should never sit with Sinn Fein in Stormont, let alone government with SF, because of its IRA links.
Not long ago the DUP were telling us SF would never be fit for government!
So what do we hear today? Even though the Secretary of State has confirmed all our worst fears, that the IRA remains in place with the capability to kill at will, that they oversee and undoubtedly direct Sinn Fein policy, Peter Robinson still wants to get his people back in their ministerial cars.
Twenty one years ago the IRA called its ceasefire, 17 years ago the people of Ireland North and South agreed the Belfast Agreement, eight years ago Ian Paisley accepted the St Andrews deal on the basis of securing the peace – so why does the IRA still exist, why are they still armed and why in these circumstances are unionists still in government with them?
In my darkest moments the answer is straightforward, power and greed.