Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has stated “categorically and definitively” that the Provisional IRA has left the stage as the DUP continued to demand a statement by the organisation’s Army Council on its status.

The two parties held Sinn Féin talks on Thursday described as “useful” to try to break the ongoing political stalemate within the power-sharing Stormont administration.

Following the acceptance on Wednesday by the British government’s ‘Independent Monitoring Commission’ that the Army Council is no longer “operational or functional”, First Minister Peter Robinson and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness led DUP and Sinn Féin delegations in talks.

They met for two hours at Stormont Castle before announcing further meetings in the coming days and weeks.

The continuing negotiations will address such issues as the transfer of policing and justice powers from London to Belfast, the Irish language, educational reform, and the Long Kesh prison site.

However, the DUP’s determination to push for the explicit disbandment of the Army Council remains the key sticking point.

The talks are also being held against a background of warnings by Sinn Féin that it would walk out of the Executive if police and justice powers are not devolved and by DUP leader Peter Robinson that there will be “serious consequences” if the Executive does not meet on September 18th.

While the DUP welcomed the special report on the Provisional IRA by the so-called ‘Independent Monitoring Commission’ (IMC), Mr Robinson added that unionists needed “to be convinced by the republican leadership that the IRA is out of business for good”.

The PSNI police chief Hugh Orde said there was no evidence that the Provisional IRA leadership continued to meet and he said it presented no threat.

“I think the IMC report is pretty unequivocal,” he said.

“There is no intelligence and I have no intelligence that they (the Army Council) are meeting and the world moves on.

“I think the IMC’s assessment is a very fair and very accurate description of where that organisation currently is.

“In the absence of someone standing up and saying ‘It’s gone away’, this is as good as we’re going to see.”

Orde said the republican threat now came only from other groups such as the Real IRA.

Before travelling to Dublin yesterday, Mr Adams said this week’s report by the IMC had confirmed that the IRA was “out of the equation”.

He was asked on BBC radio whether he could speak for the republican leadership and say the Provisional IRA was “out of business for good”.

Mr Adams said: “I am saying categorically and definitively that the IRA - and it’s what everybody knows - has left the stage. Sin e. The IRA is no longer part of this, we should not be concerned about it.”

On the same programme, DUP Minister for Finance Nigel Dodds indicated that his party required confirmation directly from the republican leadership that the Army Council was redundant.

“For Gerry Adams to say, ‘well you know the IRA are off the stage’, if that’s the case what’s the problem then with saying that they’re disbanded, they’re gone for good?” he asked.

Mr Adams pointed out that the Army Council would be required to constitute in order to issue a statement of disbandment. Some commentators have added that holding such a meeting could prove difficult or even fractious; and that formal disbandment could encourage the Continuity IRA or Real IRA.

“If the IRA is out of the stage how do you even get a statement?

“I think the IMC said the IRA is redundant. Do you bring them back again? I mean, it’s all ridiculous.”

Mr Dodds denied the DUP was obsessed with the IRA. He said Sinn Féin was obsessed with devolving policing and justice. The DUP had a concern about the Army Council - and “good progress” was being made - but there was also an issue of determining when there would be “public confidence” for the devolution of policing and justice.

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© 2008 Irish Republican News