Ian Paisley: We need urgent action from police to unravel rationale behind Kevin McGuigan murder
The second statement from the police that the murder of Kevin McGuigan was carried out by members of the IRA has profound consequences for the political process as well as the peace process.
When the DUP agreed to form a government after negotiations, we did so on the basis that the evidence supplied to the party was tangible and real, that Sinn Fein were committed to exclusively peaceful means of resolution and that the IRA as we know it was finished.
The privy council briefings that my father received as leader of the DUP provided him with assurance on two fronts;
1. That intelligence sources had confirmed that the war against the British state in Ireland - ie the killing of Protestants and the bombing of our country was over.
And 2. That the leadership of Sinn Fein would stand up to and confront IRA criminality.
There is no doubt we have witnessed a major sea change in the affairs of our country. Sinn Fein has crossed a rubicon that they cannot go back on.
They have accepted British rule in a country they wished to rid the British from. They have accepted the rule of law from the British crown forces. They have succumbed to being members of the police authority or police board that holds the police to account.
However, despite this progress it has been completely impossible to prevent former IRA members from either splitting from their former brothers in arms and becoming dissidents and even less possible to clamp down on the IRA's other big activity of serious and organised crime.
The murders of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan are a direct consequence of failure to deal with this aspect of republican activity. At the time of the IRA ceasefire there was much deliberation given to the question if the ceasefire was permanent. This issue has awakened once more.
Sinn Fein have always spoken with split tongue on the issue of the IRA. At Stormont their office includes not only their political wing but it contains also their organisational wing.
The head of intelligence of the organisation as well as operations. Now for a political party this would be normal but I think all accept there is something more sinister about the Sinn Fein arrangement.
Does anyone seriously believe that a gun and a strategy and a decision to murder such a prominent republican with IRA personnel used, would not include in the decision-making process the organisation's head of intelligence and head of operations and that those individuals would not pass such information on to the political people they work with?
The task the senior police now have is to unravel that cobweb of structure and to hold to the line they have so far bravely spoken about, without grace or favour to anyone.
If it is maverick activity so be it. But this is different, it smells and looks different and the police and military talk around it is about a structured arrangement.
Now the Gerry Adams and Gerry Kelly double act may go apoplectic with rage about how dare people say the IRA did this. The fact is they are actually sincere when they use the one side of their split tongue. The IRA you and I grew up with didn't do this. It's gone away. That war is over.
But the other tongue is silent because it cannot speak for fear the truth will emerge that the republican movement had to do this to keep control. Not political control.
But a control of the darker side of community activity - muscle, crime, money, power. Just like in the old days this needs a command and organisational structure.
Not an army council but a structure and this in my view is what the police are talking about when they say the IRA members are involved. How far up the chain did the knowledge go? My guess is to the top.
What does it mean for unionists? This is not some helpful distraction away from the welfare reform saga. The recent murder unfortunately spells out the reality that things are now bloody and difficult.
The police will need to report quickly on what they have put into the public domain by way of statements. But we cannot wait for the process of law and order to turn full circle. That could mean many months, or even years. In a matter of days, the Assembly will be awakened from its summer slumber and the Executive will be cranked up for its round of meetings; can we continue with a 'business as usual' approach?
The consequences of any action now is critical. I'm pro-devolution. Not at any price but I recognise that local people having a say means we are responsible for rates, health, welfare and social and moral issues like abortion, gay marriage etc.
If devolution falls, all this goes back to Westminster and local variations become less possible.
In my view we must press for an urgent and conclusive report from the police that will have to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this murder was not sanctioned or that it was. The statement makes it harder for the Assembly to survive and it makes the bar higher for Sinn Fein to cross but that's their problem. We as unionists must do what is right. Even if the stars fall.
In my view, giving the police until the end of September provides them with adequate time to make that assessment. It gives all parties the opportunity to state the options they will pursue.
I don't believe it would be advisable under these circumstances to meet in a 'business as usual' manner.
Government departments could continue to function but we should consider blocking the meeting of the Executive until the police report.
Now unless a rabbit is pulled from a hat and the police say 'oops we got it wrong', this means that Sinn Fein must be excluded from the Executive.
It does not follow that the Executive would necessarily fall. In fact Sinn Fein would be under pressure to reform themselves and remove the structures that have caused the problem.
If they give consent, the institutions could continue to function though I accept that consent would most likely be withheld and the structures would fall.
At that point, I ultimately do not believe the Assembly would be back anytime soon.
We need urgent action from police to unravel rationale behind murder