Policing, Politics and The ‘Provos’ – we’re not watching a securocrat PLAY – By Brian Rowan 

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DUP delegation at Police Headquarters for meeting with senior officers


The IRA did not disappear or dissolve with its statement of July 2005 ending the armed campaign and ordering arms to be dumped.

Nor has the issue of IRA disbandment ever been comprehensively resolved.

What has been consistent in security and intelligence assessments is a belief that the ‘war’ is over.

That assessment stretches from the report of the Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) on IRA structures in September 2008 through to what Chief Constable George Hamilton had to say last weekend.

Just read Paragraph 2.8 of that IMC report delivered to the British and Irish Governments now almost seven years ago.

It asks a question and answers it.



Paragraph 2.8 IMC report September 2008


There is an important sentence within that paragraph.

“PIRA is not recruiting or training members and the membership continues to decline, and there is some issue as to what membership means in the absence of activity …”

A reduced structure in the absence of activity meant little or no attention.

That was until recent days and the murder of Kevin McGuigan followed by the police assessment that current members of the IRA were involved.

This is what has brought that existing structure – whatever is left of it – into sharper political and policing focus.

But let us not pretend that there was some perfect transition in which everything and everyone had vanished.

– A decommissioning report that all arms had been put beyond use was challenged publicly almost a decade ago;

– We knew that the IRA met in a Convention before Sinn Fein’s endorsement of the new policing arrangements;

– And, long after the Paisley and McGuinness Executive, the Army Council had not been disbanded.



2008 months after funeral of IRA leader Brian Keenan, Army Council still on agenda



2006 MI5 and police challenge report all IRA arms beyond use



2007 IRA Convention before Sinn Fein vote on policing


All of these things were out there – written, discussed and debated, and then allowed to fade as demands were made and unmade.

The real story is not the existence of some skeleton structure, but the sound of gunfire and the police assessment that IRA members were involved as part of “a fallout, a disagreement, a feud within the republican community”.

This is the context for the two recent murders.

The McGuigan killing was a reprisal for the murder of Gerard ‘Jock’ Davison – once one of the most senior IRA leaders in Belfast.

That killing was never going to pass without a response, and it is that response that has placed this spotlight on the IRA in 2015.

Gerry Adams is never going to convince the unionist community that “The IRA has gone away – you know”.

The focus now is on what is still there, why it is there, and who knew and didn’t know about the involvement of current members in the McGuigan shooting.

Hamilton has no information at this time “that indicates that Provisional IRA involvement was sanctioned or directed at a senior or organisational level within the Provisional IRA or the broader republican movement”.


Chief Constable George Hamilton giving his assessment of McGuigan murder and IRA structure

Chief Constable George Hamilton giving his assessment of McGuigan murder and IRA structure


When republicans still occasionally talk about “the army” it is probably a reference to that structure that George Hamilton described a few days ago.

It is also worth remembering that it was republicans who very quickly ruled out dissident involvement in the McGuigan shooting.

We are not watching some “securocrat” play. Rather, in the settling of old scores, we are seeing what  can still happen more than 20 years after ceasefire.

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie


  1. Joan Burton, Tánaiste and Labour Party Leader was on RTE Radio today. Clearly, from her interview, it’s really about whether Sinn Féin political activity (down here, I fancy; do our pols truly care about the North? Nope. Never did.) is being funded from. the alleged considerable revenue generated by smuggling cigarettes, diesel laundering etc.
    The fact that Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil are joint second in the polls at 18% and Labour has tanked at 8% is relevant.
    There was a lot in her slightly-overwrought and whiny exposition about the threat to the Peace Process, democracy, transparency, etc etc you know yourself, the kind of stuff politicians want from others but don’t really care about practising themselves. But my guess is, the Republic’s politicians essentially go along with your analysis.

    • There is no assessment here and there has been no suggestion for a long, long time of any threat to the peace process. The wars are over. A bit like the row over on-the-runs, there was enough information to indicate an IRA structure of sorts. Demands were made and ignored and the organisation was left to wither and fall into disuse. The issue is very specific, an assessment that links current members of the IRA to a murder the police believe is “feud” related.

      • There never was a war. It was a terrorist campaign and now we in Northern Ireland have to indulge a Sinn Fein/IRA presence in our Government. They have a mandate [so had Hitler] to be MLAs. It’s only through a discredited form of enforced coalition that they have any right to be in the Executive. It’s time to hold them to account, put their feet to the fire and get the truth out of them. I don’t even trust them when they say their name. 40 + people have been murdered by them since their ‘cessation of military operations’, it was never a ‘ceasefire’. Terrorists will always be terrorists and it’s time we got rid of them and put in real democrats to run our Government.

    • There is a great irony when politicians in the Republic make statements expressing shock that the IRA has not ceased to exist, if we look at the historical fact that the Irish State couldn’t make the IRA cease to exist, instead it paid former “soldiers” a pension to ensure discipline and peace.

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