Report finds that IRA Army Council still calling shots with republicans
The IRA Army Council still exists and oversees both the Provisional IRA and Sinn Fein "with an overarching strategy", according to a major report into paramilitary activity.
All the main republican and loyalist paramilitary groups still exist and have committed murders since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, the independent assessment stated.
The panel said "the structures of PIRA remain in existence in a much reduced form" but those that remain include "a senior leadership, the "Provisional Army Council" and some "departments". It warned individual members of paramilitary groups represented "a threat to national security".
But the three-member panel appointed by the Government also found the leaderships of the groups were "committed to peaceful means to achieve their political objectives".
While not actively recruiting or rearming, it said IRA members believed the Army Council "oversees both PIRA and Sinn Fein with an overarching strategy", although it has a "wholly political focus".
PIRA members remain engaged in criminality for personal gain, such as fuel smuggling and money laundering but "the PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall," they concluded.
"It is our firm assessment that PIRA's leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means," said the trio appointed to conduct the security review - former independent reviewer of UK terror laws Lord Carlile, former senior civil servant Rosalie Flanagan and barrister Stephen Shaw.
They also stressed the severe threat that continues from dissident republicans opposed to the peace process.
And a week after the three main loyalist paramilitary groups announced an initiative to reverse the perceived "neglect" of loyalist working class communities, the report said the UVF had shown "some indications of recruitment".
But although the leadership has "attempted to steer its membership towards peaceful initiatives", a larger number of members, including senior figures, are "extensively involved in organised crime" including paramilitary assaults.
The UDA was assessed as "increasingly fragmented" but some members remain involved in criminality and violence, including drug dealing, robbery, extortion, paramilitary assaults, street disorder and violent protest.
Presenting the report in Parliament, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers said: "Paramilitary organisations have no place in a democratic society, they should disband, they brought misery and suffering throughout the Troubles."
The report was commissioned after the DUP announced a boycott of the Executive and began a protest involving rolling resignations by most of its ministers.
The move followed the arrest of senior republican Bobby Storey, who was later released without charge, following the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August.
The PSNI Chief Constable said IRA members were involved in the McGuigan murder in Belfast - a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard 'Jock' Davison (47) earlier in the year.
SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell said the outcome of the report was neither a surprise nor a shock, but "it is sobering".
"The response should be certain. Once and for all, illegal groups whatever their structure must be gone for good," he said.
"We do not need to hear more Sinn Fein or other denials. Nearly 20 years since ceasefires and the Good Friday Agreement, illegal structures and activities have no place in the life of the island."
Alliance said the report presented challenges for both Sinn Fein and the unionist parties. Trevor Lunn MLA said: "Unionist parties, meanwhile, need to seriously reflect on the findings around loyalist paramilitaries.
"How can they justify sitting on the Camp Twaddell committee and participating in a unionist forum with a graduated response when their colleagues are extensively involved in crime?"
Ukip leader David McNarry said: "The report allows both parties to cobble together a renewed existence on the back of the wordsmiths' penchant for sketching incredulity beyond an acceptable level of belief."
US Envoy Gary Hart said: "This report underscores the importance of countering paramilitarism and organised crime so that the rule of law can be applied fairly."