IRA Army Council does not exist as it is no longer needed: Murray
A senior Sinn Fein figure has insisted the terror group's Army Council does not exist.
Republican strategist Sean 'Spike' Murray danced around the issue when asked two times why the IRA's military structure was still necessary as he took part in a Tackling Paramilitarism panel alongside senior PSNI officer Bobby Singleton yesterday.
But speaking to the Belfast Telegraph afterwards, he said that the IRA's ruling body was not needed because mainstream republican groups were not involved in criminal behaviour.
This came despite PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton saying in June that the structures of the IRA remained in place.
Mr Murray said: "I don't accept there's an Army Council.
"I don't see any manifestation of mainstream republican links to coercive control of my own community.
"Such behaviour would be counterproductive.
"It's the reason loyalism never got a foothold in politics.
"People reject those involved in such activities at the ballot box."
The ex-prisoner also said he was vindicated by the Public Prosecution Service's (PPS) decision on Monday not to prosecute him on charges of smuggling firearms here from Florida between 1995 and 1999 due to insufficient evidence.
"There are no foundations to these allegations and that has been proved by the PPS," he added.
"There is no case to answer, and I have consistently said that from day one."
The allegations were made in a 2014 BBC Spotlight programme that claimed he conspired with Florida businessman Mike Logan to import a large consignment of Glock handguns. Mr Logan died in 2016.
Addressing the question of how to tackle "scary levels" of paramilitary behaviour on both sides of the community, Mr Murray said complex problems could prove to be "a very potent mix" amid the most polarised political climate since the ceasefire.
He warned it could create "a perfect storm".
"We have no governance, politics isn't delivering and we have the onslaught of Brexit." he said.
"Another poisonous relationship is that between the Tory Government and the DUP."
However, he agreed with PUP councillor Dr John Kyle, who said drug use was a major issue which fuels paramilitary activity.
Mr Murray warned drugs can also result in extortion.
"Criminal gangs will go to a family and say: 'Your son or daughter is involved in drug dealing'. And then demand a ransom of thousands of pounds," he said.
Other panellists expressed frustration over the reluctance of "risk averse" civil servants to allocate money in the absence of ministers and fears over the "huge uncertainty" around Brexit and stalemate on legacy issues.