Kevin McGuigan murder shows that the IRA is intact, armed and killing, writes Jim Cusack
The Provisional IRA is bragging about Kevin McGuigan's brutal murder in Short Strand.
A well-known senior figure in the IRA - and Sinn Fein - was last week openly explaining the reasons why Kevin McGuigan, a former Provo turned violent gangster, had to be shot.
McGuigan had brutally intimidated local people, including an elderly couple in the Short Strand, a Catholic enclave in east Belfast where he was apparently attempting to set up a criminal hegemony.
This, the IRA man was explaining to listeners in Belfast, was why he "had" to be killed.
McGuigan had not only shot dead the local Provo boss in the Short Strand and Markets areas, Jock Davison (46) in April, but was actively conspiring to murder another senior Provisional in the city.
He had been 'spotted' spying on the home of the senior Provo in west Belfast in recent weeks, it was said. The IRA's surveillance team determined that McGuigan, one of the Provos' own top assassins in the 1990s, was on the verge of carrying out the murder and had prepared his ground with the acquisition of two cars to be used either for escape or as a diversion while the murder was taking place.
McGuigan was a seasoned killer, although his victims were almost entirely so-called 'criminals' or 'drug dealers', of whom some 20 or so were murdered by the IRA in Belfast in the aftermath of its mid-1990s 'cessation'.
It was the plot to kill the senior Belfast Provo that sealed his fate, apparently. McGuigan, it was said last week, might have gotten a 'by-ball' on the Davison murder if he had kept his head down or preferably left Belfast. But, instead, he began 'putting it up' to the Provos. He had to go.
One of the crimes that McGuigan was accused of was beating a dog to death with a hammer in the street near his home in Short Strand, apparently because the poor animal had a loud and persistent bark.
The IRA reverted to the use of the cover name 'Action Against Drugs' over the murder, a fiction that should allow those in both governments and the media devoted to the 'peace process' the exculpatory wriggle room to say the Provos didn't do it and don't exist.
'AAD' is a reincarnation of 'DAAD' (Direct Action Against Drugs) the front used by the Provisional IRA to murder at least a dozen men, all accused of being drug dealers or criminals in the Catholic, nationalist working class communities in Northern Ireland in the mid- and late 1990s. Those killed were allegedly carrying on criminal activities without paying protection money to the IRA. The IRA also shot up to 10 men in Dublin for the same reasons.
Both Kevin McGuigan and his erstwhile associate Jock Davison were the leading killers in 'DAAD'. The two were responsible for the murder of Micky Mooney (34) a small-time drug dealer shot dead in a city centre bar in Belfast in April 1995.
Mooney's murder and more than 40 more over the next decade - including several entirely innocent young men deemed to have 'disrespected' the Provos - were all excused as 'housekeeping' by the IRA within its 'own' community and deliberately downplayed or ignored to set the ground for Sinn Fein's entry into government, something which could occur in the Republic after the next election.
The key issue highlighted last week by Catherine McCartney, sister of the innocent Belfast man Robert McCartney, who was beaten and stabbed to death by Jock Davison and his IRA gang in January 2005, is the failure of the PSNI - and to a lesser extent the gardai - to prosecute the murders and other crimes committed by the Provisional IRA since its alleged 'cessation' (it never used the term 'ceasefire').
Catherine McCartney said the investigation of her brother's murder and the others had to pass through what are effectively government-backed political 'filters' designed not to implicate the Provisional IRA, as the military wing of Sinn Fein, in murder. Only one of a known 45 murders carried out by the IRA since its cessation has led to a conviction for murder.
The official denials that persists in sections of the Irish and British media over the existence of the IRA, the refusal to admit or believe that the IRA carried out the December 2004 robbery of £27m (€37.5m) from the Northern Bank, the murder of Robert McCartney and Paul Quinn, among many others, was thrown into confusion last week when the PSNI's most senior crime investigator said the 'Provisional IRA' was involved in Kevin McGuigan's murder.
Det Supt Kevin Geddes said: "One of our major lines of enquiry is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder."
This statement conflicts starkly with the official position of An Garda Siochana, as articulated by Commissioner Noirin O'Sullivan in a letter to Sinn Fein Donegal TD Padraig MacLochlainn in March this year, that: "An Garda Siochana hold no information or intelligence to support the assertion... that the Provisional IRA still maintains its military structure and confined its criminal activities to fuel laundering, cigarette smuggling and counterfeiting."
The belief, always quietly spoken by gardai and their counterparts in the PSNI, is that the Provos never surrendered their weapons and even went on importing weapons during and after the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. They were effectively allowed to continue their entirely criminal activities under what government sources say was a sidebar 'secret deal' supported by not only the British and Irish governments but the US government as well.
Between 1998 and 1999, an IRA unit in Florida sent 23 packages to addresses in the UK and the Republic containing 122 automatic handguns, believed to be the second or third part of a shipment totalling around 400 firearms.
The arms smuggling was passed off in the joint British-Irish government's policy of 'constructive ambiguity' over the supposed non-existence of the Provisional IRA.
The operation was, journalists were briefed, either an aberration on the part of some misguided Provos or part of what was termed their 'housekeeping' activities to deal with internal threats in their nationalist heartlands.
This constructive ambiguity allowed the Provos to continue murdering people, carrying out punishment shootings and beatings and running the biggest criminal operation on the island - estimated recently by one well-placed source in the republican community at being worth up to €800m to €1bn in assets and cash.
Well-placed sources in the republican community, who support the peace process, said last week that there is and has been 'no question' that the IRA continues to exist; that it has maintained its command structure; that it oversees an enormous criminal organisation involved in fuel laundering, tobacco smuggling and other activities; and that it still - as the murder of Kevin McGuigan has shown - maintains a 'military' capability. Gardai also believe it is still involved in research and development of improvised explosive devices.
The sources say the 'Army Council', the seven-man leadership body, still exists, though it is known officially within the 'Republican Movement' encompassing Sinn Fein and the IRA by another term.
Its membership consists of at least two prominent members of Sinn Fein.
The four who are not known widely outside the 'movement' are the Belfast boss, a millionaire south Armagh fuel smuggler and two others, one from the North and one from the South.
The IRA bosses all live lives of luxury surrounded by retinues of minions deriving their incomes from criminal enterprises and the billions of euro of public money poured into the North as a prop to the peace process.
After Kevin McGuigan excluded himself from this jamboree by brutally intimidating people and was kneecapped by the IRA, local people say, his simmering anger eventually evolved into the solo mission against his former associates and the murder of his old friend Jock Davison.
There is a great deal of discussion going on in Belfast about what drove McGuigan on this apparent kamikaze mission against the IRA. But there is agreement that if it achieved anything, it was to cause the Provos - 19 years after the Good Friday Agreement - to finally affirm the August 1995 observation by Gerry Adams that "they haven't gone away, you know".
Source: Sunday Independent