Gerry Adams has denied claims that the IRA is still active and was involved in the murder of a former IRA gunman, the latest twist in a fierce dispute that has engulfed Northern Irish politics.
Sinn Fein’s president issued the denial after Chief Constable George Hamilton, the most senior police officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland, reportedly repeated the PSNI assessment, first made last week, that members of the IRA – which declared itself defunct a decade ago – were involved in the shooting dead of Kevin McGuigan in east Belfast last week.
It has been claimed that Mr Hamilton believes that the credibility of Sinn Fein is “in tatters”.
Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt, who met Mr Hamilton yesterday, said: “The Chief Constable repeated the police assessment that members of the IRA took part in Wednesday’s murder and that the IRA still exists, although what form it takes in 2015 is not fully clear.”
The shooting of Mr McGuigan and the subsequent comments by Mr Hamilton linking the killing to the Provisional IRA have caused a political storm in the province and prompted Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to describe the situation as “serious”.
However, Mr Adams has insisted that the IRA was not involved in the Belfast murder. He said: “There has been a lot of speculation and media spin about whether the IRA was involved in the killing of Kevin McGuigan. The IRA was not involved.”
The Sinn Fein president insisted the IRA left the stage in 2005, when its leadership ordered an end to the armed campaign and instructed its volunteers to take part only in “purely political and democratic programmes” and no “other activities whatsoever”.
Earlier, the Police Federation for Northern Ireland, which represents the rank and file, described the PSNI’s assessment as “worrying”.
Mr McGuigan was gunned down in east Belfast in a suspected feud between former IRA members. He was shot dead in front of his wife, Dolores, outside their home in the republican Short Strand area.