A senior unionist has said he accepts that the IRA and its ‘army council’ are no longer active.
The DUP’s Jeffrey Donaldson said that there was “no evidence of the Provisional IRA being active” and that evidence showed the IRA’s army council “has not met in any format” in recent years.
“This confirms the view that the Provisional IRA has left the stage,” he added.
“When we entered into devolution, we put in a mechanism whereby senior members of the DUP and members of the Privy Council would be briefed by the security services.
“We were determined that if there was any evidence that the Provisional IRA were engaging in acts that would destabilise the peace process that we could deal with it in the political realm.”
Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, the Lagan Valley MP added that through his own party’s briefings with security forces, no evidence had pointed towards ongoing activity.
“It’s what we’ve been briefed and there has been no change recently. It’s been our position for a while,” he said.
“There is no evidence of the Provisional IRA being active and the army council has not met in any format.
“But clearly there is an issue as to what happens about the past actions of the IRA and we are determined there will be no re-writing of the Troubles.”
Mr Donaldson’s comments come just days after Sinn Fein’s national chair Declan Kearney told dissident republicans that there was no armed struggle to be finished. Speaking at the Easter commemorations which took place at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast on Sunday, he said: “Make no mistake, there is no other IRA, here in Belfast or anywhere else”.
It was a speech heard not just by some of the most senior figures in the IRA but also a wider audience.
“Many of us have been involved in helping to take risks for peace,” he added.
“We have all benefited from those risks being taken.”
Mr Kearney added that increased dialogue and engagement with the wider unionist and Protestant community was needed. “That presents a huge challenge for us.
“Unionists continue to harbour suspicions about republicans,” he added.
Meanwhile, six men arrested in Londonderry after a masked man read out a statement from Oglaigh Na hEireann at a republican rally on Sunday threatening to attack security forces have been released without charge.
Jeffrey Donaldson’s comments come only 48 hours after Sinn Fein chairman Declan Kearney told senior IRA figures there was no war to continue to fight and that the group was no longer active. Speaking at Easter commemorations in west Belfast he also mentioned the need for reconciliation and called for increased dialogue between both sides — adding that “unionists continued to harbour suspicions about republicans”.