PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne under fire after deflecting questions on Provisional IRA status
For those who wish to remember, in 1999, the British Secretary of State for the north, Mo Mowlam, stated that the kidnapping, torture and murder of 22 year old Catholic Charles Bennett by Sinn Fein/PIRA was not a breach of the Sinn Fein/PIRA cease-fire agreed with their MI6 Handlers, but the murder of Catholics by Sinn Fein/PIRA was viewed by the British as “Internal House-keeping”, in this assessment Mowlam also included the 5,000 women and children who were known at that time to have been raped by Senior members of Sinn Fein/PIRA and those rapists protected by the Sinn Fein/PIRA leadership and their Handlers.
Initially, in 1999, Mowlam had stated that neither she nor the NIO could say who murdered Charles Bennett, and that such a determination was a matter for The Chief Constable of the RUC. When Sir Ronnie Flanagan responded to Mowlam’s assertions on UTV and stated unequivocally that The PIRA had murdered Charles Bennett, Mowlam openly declared the collusion that existed/exists between Sinn Fein/PIRA and the British establishment, an establishment that has a share-holding on the PIRA Army Council.
What then has changed since 1999, are Sinn Fein/PIRA still agents of the British State?
PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne has come under fire after declining to answer questions from the Stormont Justice Committee about the status of the Provisional IRA.
Quizzed on the matter yesterday 14th February 2020, Mr Byrne directed questions around an assessment of the Provisional IRA to the secretary of state and the Northern Ireland Office (NIO).
Mr Byrne replied: “The status of the Provisional IRA is not for me to comment on.”
The Northern Ireland Office has been asked to comment.
Mr Byrne’s comments have drawn attention in light of a statement from the PSNI to the Belfast News Letter in November 2019 which affirmed the continuing role of the Provisional IRA.
Four months ago the PSNI told the Belfast Newsletter there had been “no change” since the 2015 government assessment; Prompted by the murder of Kevin McGuigan, the 2015 report said that the PIRA Army Council was still overseeing both Sinn Fein and the remaining structures of the Sinn Fein/PIRA organisation with an “over-arching strategy”.
“With regards to PIRA, there has been no change since the Paramilitary Assessment in 2015,” the PSNI told the Belfast News Letter in November 2019.
The government report, published in 2015 and based in part on PSNI assessments, concluded that the second largest political party in both the north and – now the Freestate also – continues to be overseen by the PIRA Army Council, which although much reduced in scale and “committed to the peace process”, still has “specific” departments and “regional command structures”, gathers intelligence, retains weapons and has been involved in “isolated incidents of violence, including murders”.
Jim Gamble, former head of PSNI Special Branch in Belfast, said Mr Byrne had “got caught between a rock and a hard place”.
“He has come into the role and is doing the best he can. But unlike [previous Chief Constable] George Hamilton, who had grown up with the RUC and PSNI and who had a deep understanding of the nuances here, Simon is only beginning to go through that particular learning curve.
“There is absolutely no doubt that the volume on IRA historic and contemporary links to politics has been turned right down, because they are not the same as other terrorist organisations; None can compete with the fact that Sinn Fein is inextricably linked to the IRA, and given the Good Friday Agreement and the work towards peace, then of course no other organisations would have the influence over the direction of policy within a political organisation that the IRA Army Council has [with Sinn Fein].”
TUV leader Jim Allister took issue with the Chief Constable’s reaction to questions yesterday.
“The Chief Constable’s comments to the Justice Committee about the status of the PIRA being a matter for the Secretary of State reminds Northern Ireland that there are double standards when it comes to criminality and terrorism in Northern Ireland,” he said. “Let’s not forget that the PIRA remain the deadliest murder group in Western Europe - something to which the graveyards of our Province bare chilling testimony”.
Ken Funston, SEFF’s Advocacy Services Manager said it was “precisely the Chief Constable’s role” to respond to MLAs’ questions.
“He is a civil servant who must be accountable to those who are in positions of governance in this land,” he said. “He deliberately avoided the question rather than having to give an answer that others might have an issue with. If he had been asked a similar question on the status of republican dissidents or loyalists, there is little doubt that he would have answered the question. His failure to do suggests that he is allowing politics to interfere in the discharge of his role responsibilities”.
Asked to address the apparent discrepancy between the November statement and the Chief Constable’s comments yesterday, the PSNI gave a short comment and a link to the 2015 report.
“The assessment commissioned in 2015 by the then Secretary of State on Paramilitary Groups in Northern Ireland has not changed,” a PSNI spokeswoman said.
In November the editor of a leading NI blog said that it was “extraordinary” how little attention was given to the PSNI revelation that the IRA Army Council still oversees Sinn Fein strategy.
Slugger O’Toole Editor Mick Fealty told the Belfast News Letter: “We have accommodated ourselves to profoundly undemocratic norms. And one of the ways this shows itself is a general unwillingness to subject certain groups to the norms of accountability... And the idea that some people can be excused from that accountability on the basis that it is too political to subject them to accountability is a perfect example of that departure from democratic norms.”
Last week the Belfast News Letter reported that Provisional IRA members were linked to 26 murders since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, recent examples being, Paul Quinn murdered by Sinn Fein/PIRA in Monaghan in 2007 and Kevin McGuigan murdered in Belfast on the direct orders of The PIRA Army Council which is now exclusively made up of Sinn Fein/PIRA members based in the north only.
Although it is not possible to give exact figures, an examination by the Irish Independent in 2005 carried a detailed profile of 39 individual murders it said had been committed by members of the IRA from its 1994 ceasefire up until 2005. If accurate this would now equate to 26 murders since the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998.
A common theme, the Irish Independent found, was of individuals who had challenged IRA members in their own communities and paid a fatal price, some such challenges involved young men who had been raped by Sinn Fein/PIRA members when they were children. In 2018 academic and NI Policing Board member Paul Nolan found that 38 Catholic civilians had been killed by non-specified republican organisations since the GFA - a figure of similar proportions to the Independent’s.
However, dogs on the street know well that Sinn Fein/PIRA continue to murder, mutilate and rape at will, Sinn Fein/PIRA continue to ghost their rapists into the Freestate without notification to An Garda Siochana or Tusla.
Overall, Mr Nolan said republicans had taken 74 lives since the GFA.