Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has said people in west Belfast must “get real” and understand that the Provisional IRA is not going to return to tackle criminality in the area. People must stand together against the “thugs”, he said this week.
Mr Adams said everyone had a responsibility to deal with this unacceptable behaviour.
“Parents, policing and justice agencies, educators, the media, public representatives, all of us have a duty to bring about greater community safety.”
Mr Adams said that after the murder of Harry Holland and Frank “Bap” McGreevy in west Belfast, he had heard some people saying they wanted the IRA back to tackle this activity.
“Well, let’s get real. That’s not going to happen,” he said.
“The IRA made its position very clear when it instructed its volunteers to assist the development of purely political and democratic programmes through exclusively-peaceful means. And this is what activists who were in the IRA are now doing.
“They are active in Sinn Féin supporting and developing our strategies and actions.
“They are working in their communities on the streets, day in and day out, and they are dealing with the PSNI in an effort to make it politically non-partisan and accountable to the public whom it serves.”
Mr Adams said he and Sinn Féin were involved in a number of initiatives to address the issue of crime in the constituency.
The community must work together against such activity.
“Every able citizen has a question to answer: are we going to be dictated to or put down by thugs? Or are we going to stand together against them?”
Last week PSNI chief Hugh Orde hit out at Sinn Féin for what he said was unfair and unjustified criticism of his police force.
“Of course, no police service is perfect,” said Mr Adams. “And constructing a police service, which reaches the high standards we have set, is difficult given the legacy of bad state policing under unionist and then British control. But we knew that.”
In a series of public statements, Hugh Orde has battled with Sinn Féin over policing practices in the North, particularly its activities i republican areas, as well as the Policing Board, who he accused of wasting his time.
Mr Adams’s latest statement prompted a further controversial response from Orde, who declared that Adams was “de facto saying there is only one police service in Northern Ireland - and it’s mine”.
Next week Orde will meet Adams, with crime in west Belfast among the issues to be discussed.
He added: “I still think we have a huge way to go with some of the leaders of the republican movement and the police service.
“But we have been talking to representatives of Sinn Féin for years.”
The PSNI chief also launched a stinging attack on the Policing Board.
Even the youngest new recruits were more focused on the force’s strategy than the body charged with its oversight, he declared.
Orde hit out at the elected members of the board who he claimed were being distracted by sectarian arguments that had nothing to do with policing.
“I get more strategic questions, I have to say, from my junior officers than I do currently from the Policing Board. Because the Policing Board’s gone a bit tribal at the moment,” he said.
Sinn Féin Policing Board member Alex Maskey expressed surprise at the remarks.
“I certainly have been at every single Policing Board meeting since last year,” he said.
“Hugh Orde has never, ever once said to the Policing Board, ‘by the way folks, you are not actually asking me the right questions, or you are not asking me the strategic questions’.
“So if he has that type of an observation to make, he should make it at the Policing Board.”