Provos a spent force by time of ceasefire, claims Empey
The IRA's ceasefire two decades ago came after the Provisionals realised there was "no point" in continuing their campaign, a senior Ulster Unionist has argued.
Former party leader Lord Empey said the extent to which the PIRA had been infiltrated by the security services had not been appreciated at the time.
"At the time of the ceasefire, the Ulster Unionist Party was extremely suspicious," the former acting First Minister admitted.
"We assumed – based on the evidence of previous encounters between the Government and the IRA such as in 1972 – that it was probably politically driven and the product of some kind of deal."
Lord Empey was referring to the first Secretary of State, William Whitelaw's secret talks with the Provisionals at a house in London in 1972 and a period which culminated a year later with the Sunningdale Agreement.
The ex-Stormont Executive minister said that by the early 1990s, there was a fear PIRA was playing politics with the ceasefire.
"There was also a suspicion that the IRA was using the ceasefire as a political bargaining tool and to some extent this notion was justified when the IRA breached their ceasefire in 1996 with bomb attacks on Canary Wharf in February and Manchester in June.
"In retrospect, we hadn't appreciated the extent to which the IRA had become infiltrated by the security services and its capacity to conduct its terror campaign degraded."
He added: "With hindsight, the ceasefire's significance was that it represented the IRA's acceptance that their campaign had failed and they realised there was no point in continuing."