Belfast Telegraph

More needs done to combat scourge of IRA criminality

By Nelson McCausland

The shooting of Kevin McGuigan in the Short Strand on the night of Wednesday, August 12 was murder, just as the shooting of Gerard "Jock" Davison in the Markets area earlier in the year was murder. Some people may refer to such killings as "internal housekeeping", which seems to mean republican killing republican, but both were criminal acts of murder.

Moreover, according to the Chief Constable of the PSNI, George Hamilton, members of the Provisional IRA were involved in the murder of Kevin McGuigan and there is still an IRA "structure".

This comes after the revelation last year that senior republicans had imported around 400 handguns and ammunition from America between 1995 and 1999, before and after the Belfast Agreement.

So why were they acquiring new guns at the same time that Sinn Fein were signing up to a "peace process"?

In recent weeks, the focus in the media has been on murder, but paramilitary organisations are also about control of communities and about fundraising, whether for organisations, including some political organisations, or individuals.

Back in 1969, at the start of the Troubles, the IRA split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA. The Officials obtained weapons from America and, according to a Soviet defector, they also acquired arms from the Soviet Union.

Their terrorist campaign included the murder of Senator John Barnhill, the murder of six civilians and a Roman Catholic Army chaplain at Aldershot and the murder of Ranger William Best, a Roman Catholic soldier who was home on leave in Londonderry.

On May 29, 1972, the Official IRA called a ceasefire, except for "defensive actions", but even after that they were involved in bloody feuds and carried out savage "punishment beatings".

Eventually, over a period of years, they came to the point where their main activity was as the criminal fundraising wing of Official Sinn Fein, which became Sinn Fein - The Workers Party and then just the Workers Party.

In December 1985, five men - including Official IRA commander Anthony McDonagh - pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to defraud the Inland Revenue and, 20 years later, they were still at it.

In 2005, Sean Garland was accused by the United States of helping to produce and circulate counterfeit American dollars which had been printed in North Korea.

In a similar way, the Provisional IRA used extortion, fraud, smuggling and armed robbery to fund its terrorist campaign. There was a steady flow of money across the Atlantic from some sympathetic Irish-Americans, but the Provos also used the proceeds of crime to fill their coffers.

As a result, they were able to amass a vast war-chest and the proceeds of their crime enabled them to acquire businesses and properties. Some of those criminal activities continue to the present day and fuel-laundering is just one obvious example of that criminal activity.

Unfortunately, the PSNI and HM Revenue and Customs have been rather unsuccessful in bringing these republican criminals to court.

From time to time, there are news reports of the discovery of fuel-laundering plants, mainly around the border with the Irish Republic, but the real question is how many people have actually been charged and convicted for fuel-laundering and how much money has been recovered from the criminals?

The National Crime Agency was established as a United Kingdom crime agency in October 2013 to deal with "serious crime".

Opposition from Sinn Fein, aided and abetted by the SDLP, delayed its introduction into Northern Ireland, but it became fully operational in this part of the United Kingdom on May 20, 2015 and the Chief Constable of the PSNI said that it would provide "additional capacity and expertise".

Investigations will take time and there will be many demands on that "capacity and expertise", but peace, progress, prosperity and politics require an end to republican criminality.

No political party should be associated with murder and criminality.

Nelson McCausland MLA is chair of the Assembly's culture, arts and leisure committee

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