The political leader of loyalism says the IRA Army Council poses no threat.
Dawn Purvis was speaking hours before today’s publication of the latest IMC assessment on the structures of the IRA — a report that is seen as crucial to progress on the deadlocked issue of policing and justice powers.
The commissioners of the Independent Monitoring Commission are expected to report that the IRA no longer poses a terrorist threat and that the organisation is withering away.
While it will not say that the Army Council has been disbanded, its assessment, according to a source, is that “the IRA’s terrorist capacity has effectively disappeared”.
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the Stormont MLA and leader of the Progressive Unionist Party Dawn Purvis said:
“I think the existence of the Army Council has been instrumental in the conflict transformation programme of the republican movement over the past number of years.
“I don’t think they have posed a threat for quite some time.”
But she warned the peace process “has the potential to unravel, because what we are seeing played out is a game of one-upmanship between the DUP and Sinn Fein. If the DUP make the Army Council the issue then it becomes the issue and as we saw in the past over decommissioning the price of that gets higher and higher,” Ms Purvis said.
What she means is there will be a political cost to unionism, which she says is being pushed “to the very edge” by the republican position on issues such as the Maze Stadium, Irish language and education reforms.
The IMC finalised its Army Council report on Sunday, and ahead of publication today DUP leader and First Minister Peter Robinson warned that the IRA’s structures “must be removed completely”.
Quoted elsewhere in this newspaper, the Derry businessman Brendan Duddy, who was the “backchannel link” between the British Government and the republican leadership in the pre-ceasefire years, said:
“No one in the IRA... is going back to war. At what point do we move on?”
A senior loyalist paramilitary source commented: “I wouldn’t see them (the Army Council) as a threat. I think they (the DUP) are still stalling for time. I also think the stalling could be because they have not got all their supporters with them. But they need to get brave and do what is right for the country,” he said.