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Blood feuds shouldn't be allowed to bring down Stormont

By Liam Clarke

Published 08/09/2015

Jock Davison
Jock Davison

Before he died in 2010 Cardinal Cahal Daly likened continuing IRA activity to the "seamy blood feuds of the Cosa Nostra" rather than to politics. It was arguably a simplification but it seems to catch the murders of Gerard Davison and Kevin McGuigan pretty well.

From what we can gather these two men were old comrades in the IRA, they later joined the Direct Action Against Drugs front organisation which murdered drugs dealers and some say extorted money from those who weren't murdered. It was a murky group and before long Mr McGuigan was criticising the way Mr Davison ran the IRA locally. Mr McGuigan was also accused of beating another republican up and as a result, he believed, Mr Davison imposed a "six pack" punishment shooting on him.

Mr McGuigan worked hard in the gym to regain his strength after the ordeal, threatening to kill Mr Davison when he was fit. In May Mr Davison was shot dead and last month Mr McGuigan suffered the same fate. The police say that the McGuigan murder was carried out by members of the IRA working with career criminals from Action Against Drugs, a criminal gang involved in extortion.

On the evidence so far this sounds pretty more like the Cardinal's "seamy blood feud" than revolutionary politics. All the ingredients are there - drugs, money a fall-out amongst former partners in crime and hard men affronted. George Hamilton, the Chief Constable, thought so.

"The Provisional IRA is committed to following a political path and is no longer engaged in terrorism. I accept the bona fides of the Sinn Fein leadership regarding their rejection of violence and pursuit of the peace process and I accept their assurance that they want to support police in bringing those responsible to justice. We have no information to suggest that violence, as seen in the murder of Kevin McGuigan, was sanctioned at a senior level," he said.

That statement, exonerating Sinn Fein on the evidence so far, is one reason Arlene Foster has conceded that, although her party thinks there are grounds to exclude Sinn Fein, she believes it can't be done under current procedure.

Her party leader Peter Robinson hints darkly that more is to come out. He said the IRA was "linked to a party in government", adding "indeed we believe that the association with Sinn Fein is much greater than that so far revealed. If further revelations occur it will be hard for those who want 'business as usual' at Stormont to justify their position."

The problem for the DUP is that, failing fresh revelations, they must learn to live with such nasty suspicions.

That doesn't mean just forgetting. If sections of the IRA are turning to criminality and vendetta, as the security forces believe, then there needs to be the strongest possible searchlight shone on that and there needs to be no defence from Sinn Fein for anyone arrested.

Setting up a new Monitoring Commission to keep troubles era organisations under scrutiny would be a way to manage this situation. It takes the political strain off the police.

One thing is for sure - pulling down the Assembly without adequate evidence will do nothing to combat terrorism or criminality. Solving this will take patient effort.

Belfast Telegraph

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