Kevin McGuigan murder: PSNI following 'PIRA link'
'Killing carried out by a group called Action Against Drugs'
Police on Thursday confirmed they were investigating whether members of the IRA were involved in the murder of senior Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan.
The 53-year-old was gunned down outside his home in the Short Strand area of east Belfast last week.
His family believes the murder was carried out by the IRA - a claim denied by Sinn Fein.
Speaking today, a senior PSNI officer said he believed former IRA members may have been involved.
But Det Supt Kevin Geddes said he had no evidence the murder was sanctioned by the IRA's command.
Det Supt Geddes said he believed the killing was carried out by a group called Action Against Drugs.
This, he added, comprised criminal elements, violent dissident republicans and former IRA members.
He appealed for calm and no retaliation.
Det Supt Geddes said: "My assessment is that Action Against Drugs are a group of individuals who are criminals, and violent dissident republicans and former members of the Provisional IRA.
"They are dangerous, they are involved in violence and extortion of the nationalist and republican communities and they have a criminal agenda.
"My assessment is that this is a separate group from the Provisional IRA.
The people who murdered Jock Davison are criminals.Those who murdered Kevin McGuigan are also criminals.They must be brought to justice.— Martin McGuinness (@M_McGuinness_SF) August 20, 2015
"A major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder."
The detective said he had "no information at this stage" to say if the killing was sanctioned at leadership level.
Det Supt Geddes said the police does not deal in speculation but with "hard information, intelligence and facts."
He said: "A main line of enquiry in this investigation is that Kevin McGuigan was murdered by individuals seeking revenge for the murder of Jock Davison in May. Part of this main line of enquiry is that a group which calls itself Action Against Drugs (AAD) was closely involved in the murder.
“On 6 August AAD stated that it intended to ‘execute’ the killer or killers of Jock Davison.
"Our assessment is that AAD is a group of individuals from a variety of backgrounds – some criminals, some violent dissident republicans and some former members of the Provisional IRA who have formed into a dangerous, possibly murderous, grouping in order to pursue their own criminal agenda.
"This criminal agenda includes extortion and violence against the nationalist and republican community.
“Our assessment is that AAD is an independent group which is not part of the Provisional IRA. But it is also our assessment that some members and associates of AAD are, or were, members of the Provisional IRA.
“One of our major lines of enquiry is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder. I have no information to say at this stage whether this was sanctioned at a command level or not and I am not prepared to speculate about that."
Det Supt Geddes re-appealed for information about the circumstances surrounding the murder.
He said: "Firstly, anyone who was in the area of Comber Court on the night of Wednesday August 12 who may have seen two people wearing dark clothing just before or after the shooting at 8.50pm.
"We believe that they ran through a number of houses in the Harper Street and Beechfield Street area after the shooting.
"Secondly, anyone who has any information about the circumstances surrounding the murder.
"I would ask anyone with any information to contact police, either on the 101 telephone number or through the independent charity Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 where you will not be asked for personal details."
Sinn Fein has vehemently rejected the suggestion the IRA had a role in the killing.
Responding to the police statement, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said: "The people who murdered Jock Davison are criminals. Those who murdered Kevin McGuigan are also criminals. They must be brought to justice."
First Minister Peter Robinson issues statement
“Last week I indicated that the Police Service of Northern Ireland must be free to fully investigate the murder of Kevin McGuigan without regard to any potential political consequences.
"I have had an initial discussion with the Chief Constable who has indicated the direction of travel of his investigation as it relates to the involvement of Provisional IRA members. The PSNI has asked for all those with information to come forward to assist the investigation.
"The Chief Constable and his officers must be allowed the time to continue their investigations. They must be given every support, particularly from within the Republican community, to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice.
"As I indicated in my press briefing last week there can be no place for terror and murderous activity on our streets and Republicans cannot be in the Executive in circumstances where this murder was the work of the Provisional IRA.
"Before the return of the Assembly from recess we will seek a further update from the Chief Constable to establish his conclusion regarding those responsible and the role of those in Republican movement who are associated with Sinn Fein.
"The basis upon which the DUP entered government with Republicans was a commitment to exclusively peaceful and democratic means through support for the police, the courts and the rule of law as well as the dismantling of the structures of their terrorist organisation. That remains the basis upon which parties serve in the Executive.
"To ensure that dealing with this issue is pursued in a manner which attracts the widest possible consensus we will have discussions with other parties about tabling the necessary exclusion motion in the Assembly and asking the Secretary of State to intervene in circumstances where the evidence points to the IRA being involved."
Nesbitt calls for clarification
Ulster Unionist Party Leader Mike Nesbitt MLA said that the PSNI cannot leave the assessment they have released on Thursday night, regarding potential PIRA involvement in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, hanging in the public domain without further details.
Mike Nesbitt said: "This is a very stark statement from the PSNI. But it asks questions as well as answering the question of PIRA involvement. The potential that members of a terrorist organisation that we had been told had decommissioned its weapons and wasn’t even supposed to be in existence could still be orchestrating murder on our streets is a very serious development.
"This information cannot be left hanging in the public domain and we need clarification around three options that seem to exist here: the first one is that members of the PIRA carried out this murder on their own initiative; the second is that the perpetrators sought and received sanction from a higher authority; and the third option is that it was not sanctioned by actually ordered by leaders of the Republican movement.
"Could it be that the Republican movement retained a PIRA unit with access to weapons to deal with situations that they deemed required a dip back into the old terrorist ways?
"Every politician at Stormont has signed up to going forward through purely political, non-violent means. If there is still some form of PIRA structure in existence, we need to know. This statement from the PSNI raises many questions. It is important that those questions are answered, otherwise the poison of speculation will fester and infect the political process.
"I have already spoken to the Chief Constable about today's PSNI statement and impressed upon him the need to flesh out what they have put into the public domain. We must have further details in the immediate future as the proper political reaction will rely on the facts."
A series of arrests have been made in the wake of the murder.
The latest saw a 26-year-old man detained in Co Antrim. A 49-year-old man arrested earlier today remains in police custody.
Three other men - including IRA Shankill bomber Sean Kelly - and a woman have been released unconditionally.
Mr McGuigan was hit a number of times at point-blank range in front of his wife Dolores outside their home in Comber Court in the republican Short Strand last Wednesday.
He was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of former IRA leader Gerard 'Jock' Davison in the nearby Markets area of Belfast three months ago.
There has been widespread speculation that his killing was a revenge attack by Mr Davison's one-time republican associates.
A 53-year-old man arrested in connection with the murder of former IRA member Kevin Guigan appeared in court on a firearms charge.
Patrick Fitzpatrick, who is believed to be from the Lagmore area of west Belfast, appeared at Lisburn Magistrates Court on Thursday.
He has been charged with possessing a Glock pistol with intent to endanger life.
The DUP has said there will be “repercussions” if there was IRA involvement in McGuigan’s murder.
Asked last week if he was concerned that IRA or former IRA members may have carried out the attack, First Minster Peter Robinson said: “I think everyone should be concerned that would be the case.
“We will speak to the PSNI to see what their findings are in terms of the involvement of any organisation. But let’s be very clear, there will be repercussions if that was found to be the case.”
But leading Sinn Féin member Alex Maskey said he had “no concerns about IRA involvement” in McGuigan’s murder.
Fr John Nevin spoke out against the murder during the Requiem Mass at St Matthew’s Church on Tuesday.
“The only thing that all of us can take from this terrible tragedy and from today’s funeral Mass is that violence does not solve problems,” he told hundreds of mourners.
"Violence and war and revenge do not solve problems, but create more - the circle goes on.”