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PSNI chief dismisses calls to reveal names of IRA Army Council because it would put terrorists' lives at risk

By Deborah McAleese

Published 07/11/2015

The Chief Constable has said he cannot name the members of the IRA Army Council because it would put their lives at risk.

George Hamilton was asked by a member of the Policing Board to identify those on the IRA's ruling body, which still exists, according to a recent security assessment.

However, Mr Hamilton said that he would not name the top IRA members because the PSNI had an obligation to safeguard people's lives.

He added that naming them would prejudice any future criminal justice processes.

"Board members will appreciate that the police service is legally and operationally prevented from speaking publicly on issues that could prejudice future criminal justice processes," Mr Hamilton said. "The PSNI also has ongoing Article Two [right to life] requirements and legal obligations to keep people safe."

However, UUP Policing Board member Ross Hussey said he did not accept that the PSNI should stay silent over identification.

"I don't think it is fair that the Chief Constable will not reveal who these people are," he added.

"My party had and still has concerns about the IRA Army Council still being in existence and perhaps sitting in Stormont. The report states that they are still about, and police know who they are.

"Of course I do not want to put somebody's life in danger, but I just cannot see who would be a threat to them. Also, any members of the Army Council are committing an offence and should be arrested."

Last month, an official assessment of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland revealed that the IRA's Army Council still existed, but had a "wholly political focus".

The report into paramilitarism in the province, compiled by the police and the security service MI5 was commissioned following the murder of Kevin McGuigan.

The PSNI's belief that current IRA members were involved in the murder led to a political crisis.

Afterwards, Sinn Fein insisted the Provisional IRA had gone away and no longer existed.

The report also said that dissident republicans posed the most serious terrorist threat in Northern Ireland. They have mounted up to 40 attacks against the police every year since 2000.

The Chief Constable told members of the Policing Board this week that the dissidents possessed a wide variety of firearms and munitions, a proportion of which appeared to be older and which were assessed to have been in the possession of other republican groups at some tome.

Other weapons have been procured through theft or burglary or have been manufactured, and a small number have been newly acquired, Mr Hamilton said.

The senior police officer also revealed that, during the past three years, police have seized almost 100 firearms from paramilitaries or other violent criminals.

More than 50 of the guns recovered have been linked to republican or loyalist paramilitary terror groups.

But 40 of the seized weapons were shotguns linked to criminal elements with no specific connections to paramilitaries.

Paramilitary-linked weapons included 10 firearms, the majority of which were AKM derivatives of Romanian origin, six sub-machine guns, 26 handguns, 10 blank-firing pistols of Turkish and Italian origin and two homemade 'Zip guns'.

"I would like to reassure board members that the recovery of illegal weapons is a priority for PSNI," the Chief Constable said. "Where we have any information of weapons being stored or used within our communities, we will investigate it."

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