Unionists are putting Sinn Fein under heavy pressure over decommissioning following the disclosure that ex-Provisional IRA members murdered police officer Ronan Kerr.
Questions have been raised over how republicans who left the Provisional movement in recent times are using IRA arms — which were supposed to have been decommissioned years ago — to bomb and kill.
In a statement to the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, a group of former Provisional members claimed responsibility for killing the young PSNI constable in Omagh three weeks ago.
They vowed to carry out further gun and bomb attacks. They said they weren’t dissidents and stated: “We are the IRA.”
Sinn Fein denied the group’s claim to have taken over the IRA’s mantle and said Constable Kerr’s killers had only “a wrecking agenda”.
However, Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott said Sinn Fein couldn’t escape blame for current republican violence.
“Let us not forget that most of these republican terrorists are former colleagues of the current Sinn Fein representatives. The so-called dissidents are following Sinn Fein/IRA training manuals and tactics,” he said.
“They are using weaponry from IRA arms dumps such as Semtex. They are using IRA personnel and specialist skills acquired from the IRA. Sinn Fein cannot easily absolve themselves of blame. This monster is the creation of Sinn Fein/IRA.”
TUV leader Jim Allister said there were serious political concerns following the claim of responsibility for the Kerr murder.
He demanded that Sinn Fein answer where the killers had received their training and equipment. “Did it, including Semtex, come from Provo dumps supposedly decommissioned? When will the shroud be lifted from the con of decommissioning?” he said.
A Sinn Fein spokesman said the policeman’s killers had no right to call themselves mainstream republicans. “They are not the IRA. The IRA left the stage in 2005,” he added.
He said Sinn Fein had no questions to answer on the murder, or other republican attacks. “Our position on all these factions is crystal clear. They should stop what they’re doing,” he said.
“They don’t have any strategy for bringing about a united Ireland. Their only concern is a wrecking agenda and opposing the peace process. They want to bring British troops back on the streets.”
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In a statement a group of senior former PIRA members claimed responsibility for the murder of PSNI officer Ronan Kerr. The group said it regarded itself as the main IRA and vowed to launch more attacks. The group said it would work alongside dissident republican organisations. Constable Kerr (25) was killed by a booby-trap bomb in Omagh three weeks ago today.