A government-appointed commission which monitors the conflict in the north of Ireland has concluded that the Provisional IRA was not involved in the death of south Armagh man Paul Quinn.
The report by the so-called Independent Monitoring Commission said that “members or former members” of the IRA may have been involved in the killing, which is said to be linked to smuggling activity on the border.
The IMC’s reports are drawn from the conclusions of the PSNI police and British military intelligence and are traditionally used to attack the IRA. It presented its 18th report to the Dublin and London governments on Tuesday.
The killing of Mr Quinn in October 2007 led to a major outcry against Sinn Féin and briefly threatened the stability of the Belfast Assembly. Sinn Féin denied that the IRA was involved.
Responding to the report, Sinn Féin’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said those guilty were “murderers and criminals”. He added that everyone, including republicans, had a duty to co-operate with the police “to ensure that these criminals are brought to justice”.
“I don’t care who was involved in the murder of Paul Quinn what label they had on them, what label people believe they had on them. You couldn’t get a stronger denunciation of the people responsible for the murder of Paul Quinn than that,” he added.
Speaking in Dublin, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams echoed Mr McGuinness’s remarks but denounced the IMC which, he said, “had no role to play in the political process”.
“The killing was clearly contrary to the instructions and strategy of the leadership of PIRA. It was also contrary to the interests of PIRA and to those of Sinn Féin. We are aware of no evidence linking the leadership of PIRA to the incident,” the report said.
“We do not attribute the killing to PIRA. This is for several reasons: the local and personal nature of its roots; the absence of indications either of organisational sanction or that it was in the interests of PIRA; and because it was contrary to the declared policy which PIRA has been following for over two years,” it added.
“We think that the attack on Paul Quinn was planned and carried out by local people and that it arose from local disputes. Whatever the immediate reason for the killing, certain aspects of these disputes go back some time and were not unconnected with continuing illegal activity,” it added.
Asked did the comment about illegal activity suggest that Mr Quinn was implicated in such activity, John ‘Lord’ Alderdice of the IMC would not elaborate.
Even though the IMC concluded that the IRA leadership did not sanction the Quinn murder, both the nationalist SDLP and the unionist DUP called for the leadership structures of the Provisional IRA to be disbanded.
The Quinn family support group’s spokesman, Jim McAllister said: “From day one, we said it was local south Armagh business. We also stressed it was due to lack of respect to leading figures in the area who think they are entitled to respect for past glories, if you like.
“The report actually goes into that in some detail. It clears the leadership. We expected that.”
The IMC also said a relatively new republican organisation, using the name Oglaigh na hEireann, carrried out the murder of Andrew Burns across the border in County Donegal in February. It said Burns was a member of that group.
The ‘Real IRA’ was blamed for gun attacks on off-duty policemen in Derry and Dungannon in November and a series of hoax bomb threats.
The IMC also said that the Continuity IRA continued to recruit members and target the Crown forces, and that it was “active, dangerous and committed”.
The Provisional IRA was said to have been involved only in gathering intelligence against other republicans and suspected informers.
“The leadership remained firmly committed to the political path... we do not believe it will be diverted from it,” the report said.
It said the transfer of senior republicans into Sinn Féin leadership positions was “important further evidence of the move to a peaceful and democratic role”.
The IMC also reported the continuing emergence of “dissident” unionist paramilitaries, who had engaged in a pipe-bomb attacks. While the mainstream UVF was focused on criminal activities, the UDA was an unknown quantity and neither group appeared interested in disarming. A number of UDA members were reported to have attempted to buy more weapons on an “individual and opportunistic” basis.