A row over proceeds from the IRA's 2004 £26.5m (€36.1m) Northern Bank robbery may be behind the two murders that have prompted the suspension of the DUP-Sinn Fein government in Stormont.
It is now suspected that Kevin McGuigan, the 53-year-old father-of-nine murdered outside his east Belfast home on August 13, may have been 'set up' as a scapegoat to divert attention from the money row - which is believed to have led a cabal within the IRA leadership to murder their own associate, Gerard 'Jock' Davison.
Before and immediately after McGuigan's murder, Provisional IRA figures in Belfast were openly "pointing the finger" at Kevin McGuigan for the murder of Davison (46). They also claimed he was murdered when it was "learned" he was planning to kill another leading IRA figure in Belfast.
However, sources now say the IRA themselves shot dead Jock Davison - and then murdered Kevin McGuigan as part of an elaborate ruse to make Davison's murder look like a revenge killing by a renegade former IRA member.
McGuigan was subjected to one of the IRA's most severe forms of punishment, known as a 'six pack', in which the victim would be shot six times: in the elbows, ankles and knees. It was openly said this caused a simmering resentment and led McGuigan to want to murder Davison, the IRA boss who ordered the punishment.
However, the two lived only a few hundred yards from each other in the Markets and Short Strand, on opposite sides of the River Lagan at Albert Bridge. And, McGuigan was subjected to the six pack well over a decade ago.
It is now said that the whole story about McGuigan's 'revenge' killing of Jock Davison was an elaborate construct by the IRA to cover up a murderous row within the IRA over the stolen fortune.
Sources say Jock Davison was involved in an internal row over a reputed £500,000 that went 'missing' from the robbery proceeds and that this might have been coming to a head. Davison was reportedly being proposed as the next 'chief of staff' of the IRA and, as such, would have been in a deciding position in the money dispute.
Republican sources say the row involves leadership elements in both Belfast and south Armagh. It is also understood Davison was being supported by the remaining '26 County' representative on the council, who is from the Munster area.
Davison did not seem to have personally gained from the bank robbery or other proceeds of IRA organised crime. He lived in a small house at a rent of around £450 a month. He is understood to have owned a holiday home and possibly other properties in a Co Down coastal resort since before the bank robbery. He was on an income of around £30,000 (€40,000) as a community development officer in the Markets areas.
Other senior IRA figures, however, are said to lead quite lavish lives with large houses outside Belfast, expensive cars, 'luxurious' holiday homes outside Northern Ireland and a habit of showering money on their children.
The Mafia-style criminality of the IRA will again be a focus of attention next month as parliamentarians from Dublin and London meet for preliminary discussions on a joint proposal for a cross-border security taskforce to tackle IRA gangsterism.
In March the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly adopted a report calling for a cross-border task force to tackle diesel and tobacco smuggling - two of the most lucrative income sources for the 'Provisional Movement'.
The joint assembly's report appears to be getting some British government support with the Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers saying last Tuesday that the British government "will actively consider whether there is more that we can do to support efforts to tackle organised crime and cross-border crime in Northern Ireland".
This appears to conflict with the position of the Irish government, as indicated in a response to a query from the Sunday Independent asking what material steps have been taken to progress, or not, the inter-parliamentary committee 'A' taskforce recommendation.
The query was sent to the Department of Justice who passed it on to the Revenue Commissioners, who responded: "Revenue is satisfied with the existing structures for coordinating the work of the agencies concerned and for managing joint investigations across the two jurisdictions."
Since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which provided for the exclusion of Sinn Fein in the event of continuing IRA criminality, virtually no serious action has been taken against the massive, organised 'funding' wing of the IRA. This continues alongside high levels of intimidation in nationalist areas of Northern Ireland.
Source: Sunday Independent