Garda police Commissioner Drew Harris has accused Sinn Fein of being directed by an IRA ‘Army Council’ which he claims continues to exist, despite the organisation having disbanded its structures 15 years ago.
Harris (pictured, left), the controversial former head of the RUC Special Branch in the north of Ireland, was appointed as Commissioner of the 26 County police by the outgoing Fine Gael Minister Charlie Flanagan (right) in 2018. He made the significant political intervention at the Garda College, Templemore, County Tipperary today.
The statement was clearly directed at the coalition negotiations in Dublin, which are continuing after Sinn Fein was returned with the most votes in the general election earlier this month.
“I am aware of the PSNI and British security service’s assessment and we do not differ from that view,” said Mr Harris. He was referring to claims by MI5 (British military intelligence) in 2015 that the Provisional Army Council still exists and oversees Sinn Fein’s political activity.
A report five years ago by MI5 and the PSNI (formerly RUC) claimed the Provisional IRA Army Council still existed, as did the Provisional IRA, although in a different form. The report further stated that the Provisional IRA Army Council still oversees both the IRA and Sinn Féin. It was widely dismissed at the time as being driven by the selfish agenda of the Crown Forces themselves.
Last week PSNI Chief Simon Byrne declined to answer questions from the Stormont Justice Committee about the status of the Provisional IRA. But in November, the PSNI said it had not changed its views since the 2015 report, and this seems to be have been used as the basis for today’s political attacks.
Charlie Flanagan went further than Harris to claim that Sinn Fein is currently being directed by an ‘Army Council’. Based on “facts within my own knowledge”, he said today that Fine Gael would not be part of any government involving Sinn Fein.
“I’m not satisfied as to the disposition of [Sinn Fein] towards the democratic process. I believe it’s important whatever ministers serve in the next government that they do so in accordance with the Constitution and laws of Ireland and are not subject to any direction from outside forces,” he said.
In a tweet pointing towards his own preparations for a second general election, the outgoing Fine Gael Taoiseach Leo Varadkar added: “Why doesn’t McDonald disband the Army Council and the PIRA or if she cannot, repudiate them and sever all links and do so publicly and unequivocally?”
Sinn Féin said the analysis was nonsense and a political smear campaign. They believed it would “not be lost on people” that it was being repeated at the present time.