Sinn Fein leader says ‘IRA has gone away’

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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the IRA does not exist after Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said that an IRA Provisional Army Council still oversees the party.

Speaking at an event in Dundalk, Co Louth, she was asked if the IRA still exists: “The reality is that we now live in a peaceful dispensation, the war is over, the IRA has gone away and democracy is the order of the day and there’s no dispute around that.”

“I know Drew Harris has said he will work with any party with a democratic mandate and that’s exactly as it should be.”

“Everyone knows that republicans are absolutely committed to democracy and to the peace process. Drew Harris, the PSNI and others also know that Sinn Fein members including Michelle O’Neill have actually been threatened by dangerous elements and by so-called dissident elements.

General Election Ireland 2020
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald is bidding to be the next taioseach (Brian Lawless/PA)

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has called on the Sinn Fein leader to publicly state if her party has cut links with the IRA Provisional Army Council.

Mr Harris has said he agrees with a PSNI assessment that Sinn Fein and the IRA are overseen by a Provisional Army Council.

A report commissioned by the British government on the status of Irish terrorist groups in 2015, which was written by the PSNI and MI5, stated the Provisional Army Council still existed.

The report also stated the Provisional Army Council still oversees the IRA and Sinn Fein.

Mr Harris told Virgin Media News: “In national security matters and matters around the state, it is my obligation to report to the Government as you would expect me to do.

“Also, we have been contributing to the IRC (Independent Reporting Commission) reporting on the status of various paramilitary groups and we would hold with their opinion on these matters.

“I am also aware of the PSNI and the British security services assessment and we do not differ from that view.”

He was speaking at a graduation ceremony of new garda recruits in Templemore, Co Tipperary.

In response, Mr Varadkar asked why Ms McDonald does not disband the Provisional Army Council and the IRA or sever links with them.

He tweeted: “Why doesn’t McDonald disband the Army Council and the PIRA or if she cannot, repudiate them and sever all links and do so publicly and unequivocally?”

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin said the issue of whether or not the IRA Provisional Army Council still oversees Sinn Fein is not going to go away.

He tweeted: “No matter how hard Sinn Fein representatives try to spin in the media, and no matter how aggressively their trolls try to bully critics on social media, the inconvenient truth keeps popping up. These are real issues that aren’t going away.”

Meanwhile, Mr Varadkar and Mr Martin have agreed to meet for exploratory talks next week as efforts to form a government intensify.

The leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail will get together next week after TDs failed to elect a new taoiseach on the first day of the new Dail on Thursday.

Mr Varadkar tendered his resignation to President Michael D Higgins on Thursday night but he will remain in place as caretaker taoiseach until a new one is elected.

A spokesman for Fine Gael said the date and time of the meeting has yet to be confirmed.

General Election Ireland 2020
Leo Varadkar after tendering his resignation (Brian Lawless/PA)

“They agreed to meet in person early next week for exploratory talks.

“Fine Gael has also accepted the offer from the Greens for exploratory talks next week,” said the spokesman.

Mr Varadkar said on Monday he was preparing to go into opposition and that he would only seek a coalition with Fianna Fail as “a last resort”.

On Thursday, the Dail failed to elect a taoiseach at its first sitting after the election as none of the leaders of the four main political parties nominated for taoiseach emerged with a majority to secure the role.

Mr Varadkar, Mr Martin, Ms McDonald and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan were all nominated for the role.

Ms McDonald received the most votes to become the next taoiseach, 45, but was well short of the required figure of 80.

There were 41 votes in favour of Mr Martin becoming taoiseach while Mr Varadkar got 36 votes in favour of him continuing in the role, with 107 votes against and 16 abstentions.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein has been meeting with smaller parties and independent TDs in a bid to form a government without Fine Gael or Fianna Fail but may not have enough support to do so.

Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have ruled out going into coalition with Sinn Fein, citing its left-wing economic policies and the party’s past links with the IRA.

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