Kevin McGuigan murder: Top PSNI officer confirms worst kept secret... members of the IRA carried out killing
The murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan was a joint enterprise involving current members of the IRA and the faction Action Against Drugs, it can be revealed.
Details of the police assessment of the killing, a reprisal for the murder of one-time IRA leader Jock Davison, began to emerge yesterday.
A senior police source with knowledge of the investigation and the intelligence picture described "two factions coming together to assist each other in a common goal".
The Belfast Telegraph understands detectives have "no intelligence or evidence" to link McGuigan to the Davison killing.
At this time detectives are not able to say whether the reprisal killing was or was not sanctioned by mainstream republican leaders, but the very mention of the current IRA members being involved in the plot and that the IRA still exists will have political ramifications.
Last night First Minister Peter Robinson warned that Sinn Fein could not remain in the Executive if the IRA was found to be involved and said he would confer with other parties and the Secratry of State to initiate exclusion procedures if that proved to be the case.
Ulster Unionist MP Tom Elliott has written to the Chief Constable asking for an assessment of the status of the IRA ceasefire, but police have made clear that any decisions about ceasefires are a matter for Secretary of State Theresa Villiers.
The number of current IRA members said to be involved in the McGuigan murder plot is described as "small", but the very fact that the organisation still exists a decade after ordering an end to its armed campaign will prompt further questions and probing after this police assessment.
Mr McGuigan, a former PIRA prisoner, was shot dead in front of his wife Dolores outside their home in Comber Court last Wednesday. He was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of Davison earlier this year.
Davison was gunned down in the nearby Markets area in May. There has been widespread speculation that McGuigan's murder was a revenge hit by associates of Davison.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Kevin Geddes, who is in overall charge of the investigation, said police believe a criminal gang calling itself Action Against Drugs was behind the killing.
Earlier this month the group issued a statement threatening to "execute" anyone it believed was involved in the Davison murder.
"We have a main line of inquiry that Kevin McGuigan was murdered by Action Against Drugs, in what they believe to have been revenge for the murder of Jock Davison," Det Supt Geddes said.
"Part of that inquiry is that members of Action Against Drugs were involved.
"Action Against Drugs made a public statement on August 6 that they would execute anybody who had any involvement, or they believed had any involvement, in the murder of Jock Davison."
The senior detective said Action Against Drugs comprised criminals, 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," he added.
Det Supt Geddes said he believed it is a separate group from the Provisional IRA.
He added: "A major line of inquiry for this investigation is that members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder."
He said he had "no information at this stage" to determine if the killing was sanctioned at command level.
Asked to clarify if the killing was carried out by members or former members of the Provisional IRA, Det Supt Geddes replied: "It is my assessment at this stage and my belief that people who are members of the Provisional IRA were involved in this murder."
He declined to be drawn on whether the Provisional IRA still existed as an organisation.
The IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997.
In July 2005 it promised to put its weapons beyond use and decommissioned them.
A body that monitored the ceasefire for the British and Irish governments later declared the IRA had disbanded.
Those steps were crucial preconditions of the agreements that led to the DUP agreeing to share power with Sinn Fein.
Last night 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."
Senior Sinn Fein member Gerry Kelly said: "Sinn Fein has called consistently on people to support the PSNI investigations into the killings of Kevin McGuigan and Gerard Davison.
"The killing of Gerard 'Jock' Davison was wrong and nothing to do with republicanism. Equally, the killing of Kevin McGuigan was wrong and nothing to do with republicanism. These killings need to stop now.
"The PSNI have said that the Action Against Drugs group threatened to kill anyone involved in the killing of Gerard Davison only days before the killing of Kevin McGuigan.
"I am on record as saying, and I repeat, this is a criminal gang which has been involved in extortion, intimidation and murder in nationalist communities."