Troubles victims hit out over Sinn Fein man's 'butterfly' Provos remark
Claims by senior republican Bobby Storey - whose arrest over an IRA-linked murder pushed Stormont to the edge of collapse - that the IRA has gone away have "reached the point of ridicule", according to victims.
Mr Storey - Sinn Fein's northern chairman and alleged former IRA intelligence chief - and two other well-known republicans were taken into custody last Wednesday. They were later released without charge.
Since then, UUP and DUP ministers have quit the Stormont Executive.
Yesterday, Mr Storey hit back, accusing unionists of "cynically" using his arrest to pull down the political institutions.
And in a bizarre analogy at his west Belfast press conference, Mr Storey compared the terror group changing from a caterpiller into a butterfly.
Mr Storey said he agreed with the assessment there was no IRA on a military footing, but he added: "Where I differ from the Chief Constable is there is no role for the IRA, the IRA has finished, the IRA has gone.
"I think the Chief Constable and other perspectives out there see this in terms of the IRA being the caterpillar that's still there, where I think it's moved on, it's become a butterfly, it's flew away, it's gone, it's disappeared and they need to evolve to that as well."
The odd metaphor was criticised by IRA victims and unionist politicians. Austin Stack is the son of the only Irish prison officer murdered during the Troubles.
Two years ago, he and his brother Oliver were driven to an undisclosed location in a blacked out van to get an IRA statement admitting the organisation murdered their father Brian in 1983.
Brian Stack (48) was the chief prison officer in Portlaoise and was shot while leaving an amateur boxing in Dublin.
The father-of-three died 18 months later after being left brain-damaged and paralysed.
"Bobby Storey stood just one year ago on a platform with Martin McGuiness, and roared, 'We ain't going away you know!' This week he expects us to believe the IRA is a butterfly that has flown away," said Austin Stack.
"I met the IRA in August 2013 with Gerry Adams to hear the IRA admit to murdering my father Brian, after Sinn Fein reps denying IRA involvement publicly for 30 years.
"There were no butterflies in the room that day. This has reached the point of ridicule. The IRA was far from harmless, and most definitely has not flown away. We are again seeing a pattern of denial from SF in relation to their connections, and the connections are obvious, the relationship between IRA members and Sinn Fein is well documented."
Ann Travers is the sister of Mary Travers - a teacher shot dead in 1984 by IRA gunmen as they tried to kill her father Tom Travers, a magistrate, as the family left St Brigid's church, Belfast.
"For a lot of people who believe in a spiritual sense, when I see a butterfly I would see it as a sign my father or sister are thinking of me, so I think it was quite tasteless for Storey to say it," she said.
"I would like to know how Bobby Storey, who presumably receives an industrial wage from Sinn Fein, can afford to take a civil case to sue the Chief Constable - who is paying for it, the taxpayer? Sinn Fein are saying they are supportive of the PSNI, so why would Bobby Storey want to sue?"
Shauna Moreland's mother Caroline was abducted and shot in the head by the IRA six weeks before its 1994 ceasefire after the 34-year-old mother-of-three was accused of being an informer.
Earlier this year Shauna met Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness for the first time in a bid to find answers - although it was not her first meeting with a senior Sinn Fein figure.
"I met the IRA around six years ago in relation to my mother's murder. So I know they were still in existence. The butterfly was more of a killer bee in relation to what happened to my mummy. The treatment of my mummy, and the brutality which she received was horrific.
"The butterfly comment was ridiculous, they're just trying to soften up the IRA to make them look harmless yet again. I think it's yet another insult to victims, because Sinn Fein do everything to dehumanise victims, and humanise the IRA, and make them seem as if they are doing everything for peace, when they're not. I don't believe the IRA have gone, or that they ever went away. The optics of Bobby Storey sitting alongside Sinn Fein leaders traumatises people all over again."
South Armagh man Paul Quinn was beaten to death in 2007 in Co Monaghan. His parents Breege and Stephen said he had a number of run-ins with the IRA and was ordered to leave the country.
Breege said: "I totally reject the butterfly analogy from Bobby Storey today. This was intended to paint a benign and harmless image of the IRA. We know to our cost that there was nothing harmless about the IRA criminals who murdered our son Paul."
DUP MP Gregory Campbell said: "Bobby Storey is like Gerry Adams and a growing list of republicans who people in the unionist community simply don't believe. While Storey says the PIRA is gone, the Chief Constable, the Secretary of State and a host of others disagree. The murder of two men in recent weeks significantly contradicts the words of people like Bobby Storey. Republicans are threatening devolution."
TUV leader Jim Allister said: "Republican fairytales of IRA butterflies and the ever-present villainous state agents fool no one. But will unionists be content to join them in talks on Monday to listen to such nonsense?"