Ireland

Drew Harris says he has 'no regrets' over his comments about IRA Army Council and Sinn Féin

Last Friday, Harris said he agrees with a 2015 PSNI assessment about the Army Council of the Provisional IRA and its influence over Sinn Féin.

Speaking to reporters as over 200 new gardaí graduated from Templemore in Tipperary, he said that the view of An Garda Síochána “does not differ” from that of the PSNI or British security services. 

He said: “In national security matters and matters around the State, it is my obligation to report to the government as you would expect me to do.

“Also, we have been contributing to the IRC (Independent Reporting Commission) reporting on the status of various paramilitary groups and we would hold with their opinion on these matters.

He added: “I am also aware of the PSNI and the British security services assessment and we do not differ from that view.”

Harris was speaking about a 2015 assessment conducted by the PSNI and M15 which found that the structures of the Provisional IRA still exist but in a much-reduced capacity. 

Much has been discussed about the assessment and its findings in recent days. 

The report found that PIRA members “believe that the [Provisional Army Council] oversees both PIRA and Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy”. 

It also found that PIRA members “have been directed to actively support Sinn Féin within the community including activity like electioneering and leafleting”.

However, the report added that this strategy has “a wholly political focus”.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that this becomes a matter of commentary the day after there has been a very historic vote in the Dáil.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said last week: “It will be lost on no one that this nonsense is being repeated again the day after a vote in the Dáil where, for the first time ever, someone other than a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael nominee won the most votes for Taoiseach.”

In 28 July 2005, the IRA Army Council an end to its armed campaign and said it would work to achieve a united Ireland through political means only. 

The idea that Sinn Féin was being controlled by an army council was a feature of the general election with both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael questioning the structure of the Sinn Féin party.