Unionist demands for further proof that the IRA is gone for good may not be answered, Northern Ireland’s police chief signalled yesterday.
The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) revealed yesterday that the IRA had effectively ceased to exist and Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde said the report’s evidence may be as good as it gets.
His comments on the IMC document came after Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader Nigel Dodds called for confirmation from republicans that the IRA was gone for good.
The DUP and Sinn Fein held two hours of talks yesterday aimed at stabilising the power-sharing government and pledged themselves to further talks.
The parties are divided over a series of issues, including the devolution of policing and justice powers to Stormont.
Sir Hugh told a Policing Board meeting in Belfast there was no evidence that the IRA’s ruling army council continued to meet and he said it presented no threat.
“I think the IMC report is pretty unequivocal,” he said. “There is no intelligence and I have no intelligence that they (the army council) are meeting and the world moves on.
“I think the IMC’s assessment is a very fair and very accurate description of where that organisation currently is. In the absence of someone standing up and saying ‘It’s gone away’, this is as good as we’re going to see.”
Sir Hugh said the threat of republican violence came only from dissident groups such as Real IRA.
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein and the DUP have committed themselves to a series of talks which could take “days and weeks”.
A two-hour meeting at Stormont predictably produced no signs of progress to avert the growing stalemate facing the Executive.
But if there was no breakthrough, there was no breakdown, either. Both sides called it a “useful exchange”.
Respective delegations headed by First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness discussed a range of issues, and agreed to further talks.
A short, agreed statement afterwards said: “The DUP and Sinn Fein met this morning and discussed a range of issues.
“We had a useful exchange and will be having further meetings in the coming days and weeks.”
Sinn Fein MLAs met last night to discuss strategy on the touchstone issues of the devolution of policing and justice and Irish language legislation.
And DUP MLAs are expected to meet on Monday to debate their tactics for more detailed negotiations, also expected to involve the schools transfer replacement for the 11-plus and the national stadium project at the Maze.
There is a prospect the parties could break into smaller groups to deal with the outstanding issues separately.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged to do all he can in the next few days to deliver the devolution of policing and justice, which he has called the final phase of the peace process.
It remained unclear last night, however, whether the next scheduled meeting of the Executive, on September 18, will take place.
Mr Robinson warned of “serious consequences for the good government of Northern Ireland” if it does not. His statement came after senior Sinn Fein figures threatened to pull ministers out of the Executive.
Last night, Alliance urged the two parties to get back to work. Chief Whip Kieran McCarthy said: “We have had almost three months without a truly functioning Executive and that is simply unacceptable. Northern Ireland suffers with every day that the Stormont Executive fails to meet.
“The Executive has taken the longest Summer holiday I have ever seen and local people are thoroughly annoyed at their failure get down to work.”