Sinn Féin still influenced by IRA army council – Bertie Ahern

DUP to return to Stormont after publication of report about status of paramilitaries

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said that Sinn Féin is still being influenced and led by the IRA army council.

Mr Ahern said the most interesting line from the assessment into the status of paramilitaries was that the IRA army council retained a leadership function in Sinn Féin.

"I suppose there is the one line in it that is interesting that the leadership still comes from the army council and moves from the army council to Sinn Fein and the IRA.

“I thought we had moved behind that but I suppose you had better ask Sinn Féin what the answer to that question is,” he said.


Asked was Sinn Féin being influenced by the IRA army council he said that’s what the report said.

He was responding on Tuesday to the British government report into the status of paramilitaries in Northern Ireland.

It found the IRA remained in existence albeit in a much reduced form. It also concluded the IRA council remained in operation.

The former Fianna Fáil leader was speaking at the launch of a new book on Sinn Féin by former Irish Times political correspondent and Northern editor Deaglan de Bréadún. Entitled Power Play, the book traces the rise of modern Sinn Féin and the evolution of its democratic ambitions.

Mr Ahern said the report was positive in that the IRA is not involved in arms procurement, or violence or fundraising.

“I think what’s important is that there is nothing in this report that means that the issues that the political parties in the North can’t get on with work,” he said.

The report into the status of paramilitaries was written by British Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, retired senior Northern Ireland civil servant Rosalie Flanagan and lawyer Stephen Shaw. It found that “PIRA of the Troubles is well beyond recall”.

Its findings have endorsed an earlier assessment by the PSNI chief constable George Hamilton that the IRA still exists and that some of its members were involved in the murder of Belfast republican Kevin McGuigan.

Following the publication of the statement DUP leader Peter Robinson said he would resume his post as Northern Ireland First Minister and bring back his Ministers, who had been boycotting Stormont, into the Northern Executive. He said Ministers would be back in work while the talks continued.

He said he wanted the issue of paramilitarism resolved in the current Stormont House talks. “We have a couple of weeks to save Stormont,” he said today.

“I don’t want to give the impression that because Ministers are going back into post that the issue is resolved. The big issue is getting resolved of how we deal with the existence of paramilitary organisations and how we can have the implementation of the Stormont House Agreement,” Mr Robinson told the BBC.

Mr Robinson added that it “really is a distinction without a difference to say there’s something special about the (IRA) army council being involved”.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times