Belfast Telegraph

George Hamilton's assessment of IRA puts heat on Sinn Fein

By Gillian Halliday

Political pressure is mounting on Sinn Fein's leadership to "cut its ties" with the Provisional IRA following the Chief Constable's assertion that the terror group's structures still remain intact.

The call from unionists and the SDLP came after George Hamilton said the IRA had remained unchanged since 2015, when the PSNI conducted its last report into paramilitary groups.

Mr Hamilton, who was speaking during Stephen Nolan's BBC NI Top Table programme, also said that while "aspects of the (Provisional) IRA still exist", it was "not for a terrorist purpose".

Sinn Fein yesterday denied any suggestion the IRA remains part of the modern republican movement. It said: "The IRA is gone and not coming back. There is no place for the actions of any illegal or armed groups in our society, either republican dissidents or loyalists."

Mr Hamilton said during the interview that the IRA's role was to keep "the so-called volunteers on board with the peace process" within the context of a "broader republican movement".

In reponse, DUP East Belfast MP Gavin Robinson said: "It is deeply disturbing to consider that the army council still pulls the strings in the background of republicanism.

"Paramilitary organisations cannot continue to exist in Northern Ireland. There is no place for them in society. No one wants terrorist activity in their neighbourhoods."

UUP leader Robin Swann said Mr Hamilton's statement raised question over "who is dictating the terms for Sinn Fein's return to Stormont - Mary Lou McDonald and Michelle O'Neill, or the shadowy figures on the IRA's army council?"

TUV leader Jim Allister said the Chief Constable's disclosure was "hardly surprising". But he added: "What, therefore, is the PSNI doing to bring its members to justice?"

• PSNI Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris has been shortlisted for the post of Garda Commissioner. The Irish News reported that Mr Harris was the favourite to lead the Republic's police service.

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