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Now we know who pulls SF's strings and if they didn't sanction murder, they certainly turned few blind eyes


TD Mary Lou McDonald

TD Mary Lou McDonald

TD Mary Lou McDonald

There are dynamite lines in the report into paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland which shakes what has until recently been the accepted wisdom on Sinn Fein and the IRA to the core.

The IRA, we were told time and time again, is on ceasefire, has decommissioned every weapon it ever possessed, and has ceased to exist.

This report blows away these myths and is much franker and blunter in parts than some cynics, including myself, thought it would be.

The Army Council, the seven-man body that directed the IRA's campaign of violence throughout the Troubles, not only continues to exist but currently controls Sinn Fein as well.

This means that those nice, new smiling faces - like that of high-profile TD Mary Lou McDonald - really account for diddly squat when it comes to determining what Sinn Fein does or doesn't do. Those who call the shots in the party are those who ran the war.

The report found that other IRA structures remain in place, albeit in a reduced form, including some departments. These are likely to be the Provos' finance, intelligence and security department among others.

The IRA continues intelligence gathering on dissident republicans and attempting to identify covert human Intelligence sources - informers.

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Given that Sinn Fein totally supports the PSNI, plays a full role on the Policing Board and says it's signed up to the rule of law, there is no benign reason for the IRA to carry out these functions.

It is the job of the police and intelligence services to pursue republican dissidents, and they have been doing so with huge success in recent times. If the Provisionals are concerning themselves in the business of hunting down dissidents or informers, it is for highly dubious reasons.

In recent years Sinn Fein has supported the role of informers in the fight against paramilitary activity, providing they act within the law.

So why would the IRA be actively trying to identify agents?

Given the fate that befell senior Sinn Fein figure and RUC Special Branch agent Denis Donaldson, shot dead by republicans at his Donegal cottage in 2006, this revelation has clearly sinister overtones.

The report states that, despite claims that the IRA decommissioned its huge arms cache in 2005, the Provos still retain weapons.

All these disclosures add up to the fact that while the IRA has downsized, it certainly has not disappeared.

Sinn Fein is not just a normal political party, a greener and more militant SDLP or Fianna Fail.

It maintains and, this report says, is run by an armed wing.

The get-out clause in the document is when it states that at a local level, IRA activity takes place without the leadership's knowledge or direction. This would cover murders like that of Robert McCartney, Paul Quinn, and Kevin McGuigan.

But the reality is that 21 years after the IRA ceasefire, the Army Council has had ample opportunity to close down those at a local level who continue to kill and it has chosen not to. If that doesn't amount to sanctioning murder, it does amount at the very least to a policy of turning a blind eye to it.

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