Mary Wilson (MW) interviews Anthony McIntyre (AM) about the conflicting statements made this past week by the PSNI concerning the present status of the Provisional IRA made in the wake of the murders of Gerard “Jock” Davison and Kevin McGuigan.
RTÉ Radio 1
24 August 2015
MW: And first we're turning to matters in Northern Ireland and ten years after the ending of its armed campaign the PSNI has publicly acknowledged the continued existence of the Provisional IRA. The killing of Kevin McGuigan has led to the unprecedented situation where we're told officially that the IRA hasn't really gone away. I'm joined on the line by Anthony McIntyre, a former IRA Volunteer and prisoner, who's now a political commentator. Anthony, what in any of this emerging story and the commentary coming from the PSNI up to Chief Constable level - what in any of that surprises you, if anything?
AM: The only thing, and it didn't surprise me, but the only thing that one could quibble about in relation to it is that George Hamilton probably didn't go far enough and that he, in the interest of the peace process, he had to call a spade a shovel and he duly did so.
MW: So you believe the Provisional IRA still exists?
AM: Yes, I do believe it exists. I don't know a time in the history of the IRA since partition that it didn't exist. I don't see why today would be any different. I think it exists in shadow form, a different form, and has pulled back very deep into itself but I don't believe that it's gone away and I don't know many people that I speak to in The North and on the ground in Republican communities who think it has gone away. And I speak to a lot of Republicans who are disaffected and are often referred to as dissidents and they certainly don't believe it's gone away. And they at times have had meetings with them and disagreements with them and so on and so forth.
MW: And for what purpose do you believe it now exists?
AM: Many years ago when the peace process was developing I was forecasting that the IRA at some point would leave the stage but would not disband and that it would maintain its existence primarily as a presidential guard. And I think that's what it has done because in the minds of many people who were in the IRA they made a lot of enemies within the communities as a result of their policing and there are people who would have a lot of grievances and would be inclined, in circumstances where they think there may be no repercussions or come back, they would be inclined to take actions and settle scores with people who were at one point in the IRA.
MW: Are you pointing there, Anthony, to a difficulty among members who throughout their lives perhaps were people who handled business themselves, they didn't look to the police, and they still find it difficult to look to the PSNI to be the rule of law in Northern Ireland?
AM: Well, as the PSNI demonstrated in the case of Gerard Davison the PSNI did not protect Gerard Davison. It was unable to protect Gerard Davison. It didn't have the intelligence to make an intervention to save the life of Gerard Davison. Now there are people in the Provisional IRA who assume that they know who the killer is, or was, and they took action in their mind to remove the threat to them and also it was maybe something of a pre-emptive strike and also a retaliatory blow. I mean, when Gerard Davison was killed I wrote on my blog that anybody who expects those IRA people who turned up at Gerard's funeral to sit around waiting for someone to target them like sitting ducks was very, very foolish.
So I'm not surprised at the type of activity that we have seen in recent weeks. I'm not surprised about the denials and the police fudging of the issue because we have seen this all before. We've seen it in the killing of Joe O'Connor when the police refused to say anything. I t took a Coroner's Inquest two years later to identify the Provisional IRA as the organisation responsible. And only after the coroner's verdict did the RUC then make an arrest – or maybe even it was the PSNI at that stage - and we've seen it in the Northern Bank so there's nothing really surprising to observers of the scene.
MW: But are killings of Jock Davison and Kevin McGuigan about as far away from the peace process as you can get?
AM: Well, you see the problem is: the peace process is not a peaceful process. It has never been a peaceful process. There's a peace process which is, to most people on the island, is about delivering peace. And there is a peace process which is a strategy, a political strategy, designed to ensure the expansion of one political party on the island to the detriment and expense of all the rest. And on occasion that process in which peace plays a part of delivering power or acquiring power for Sinn Féin is buttressed with the act of violence, the act of intimidation.
I mean we've seen it during the negotiations with the Irish government and the British government towards the end of 2004 when they seemed, or they put out, that they were on the verge of reaching an agreement and the Northern Bank happened. So the peace process has not been a peaceful process. And when people are being accused of being opponents of the peace process - and it is not the peace that they oppose - it is the process which has very violent methods at times intrinsic to it and which are used to strategically undermine the peace and to advance the agenda of Sinn Féin.
MW: But is the power sharing in Stormont under threat now? Could it potentially collapse?
AM: Well, power sharing at Stormont has been under threat, so they tell us, from the day and hour it came into being. I don't in my view - and I could be wrong - in my view I do not see this as being under threat. I think what has happened is that after the killing of Kevin McGuigan Superintendent Kevin Geddes probably let too much out of the bag and therefore we had George Hamilton, the PSNI Chief Constable, coming in to conjure up an IRA that everybody could live with. I mean, a sort of IRA that was more a cuddly cat than...
MW: ...A criminal IRA?
AM: Well, even if he said it was a criminal IRA that would make it a no less dangerous IRA because he hasn't specified exactly what it does. He's trying to say that some of its members without sanction are involved in the type of activity that led to the killing of Kevin McGuigan. But what did George Hamilton find out in the two day period between Kevin Geddes' announcement and George's own announcement forty-eight hours later on Saturday? What intelligence does he have to say that the IRA did not sanction this? Because Kevin Geddes on the Thursday prior to George Hamilton's statement wasn't able to tell us that.
MW: Anthony McIntyre, we'll leave it there, thank you very much for joining us.