Theresa Villiers House of CommonsA review of paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland has said parts of the Provisional IRA still exist in a “much reduced form”.

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers (pictured above) has told parliament that the Government-ordered independent review found that, while the main republican and loyalist terror groups remain, none are planning attacks.

She added that, although all of the main groups had committed murders since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, their leaders are now committed to peaceful means of achieving their objectives.

The independent assessment said that the greatest threat to the peace process came from dissident republicans who were carrying out on average 20 attack per year.

The report described the Provisional IRA as being “committed to achieving a united Ireland by political means”, adding: “The PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall.”

PIRA was the largest and most active terror group in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

Now many members support Sinn Fein through political campaigning, some gather intelligence on dissident republican activity and state informers and some store weapons to keep them away from dissidents.

Quoting the report, Ms Villiers said: “It is our firm assessment that the leaderships of the main paramilitary groups are committed to peaceful means to achieve their political objectives”.

She added: “We judge that individual members of paramilitary groups with a legacy of violent activity still represent a threat to national security.”

Ms Villiers said that most of the paramilitary groups still “organise themselves along militaristic lines”, with the report saying that this made them “look more prepared for a campaign of violence than they are”.

The report was based on assessments by the PSNI and MI5 and examined groups including PIRA, Red Hand Commando, INLA, UVF and UDA.

Ms Villiers told parliament that “much of this assessment makes uncomfortable reading”, adding: “These organisations should never have existed in the first place and, 21 years after the first ceasefires and 17 years after the Belfast Agreement, it is clearly unacceptable that they still exist today.”

It also reported that some of the other groups – such as the INLA, UDA and UVF – have become involved in crime such as drug dealing and racketeering, despite the efforts of their leaders to concentrate on positive community activism.

The INLA, said the report, were also assisting dissident republican groups.

Murdered Kevin McGuigan

Murdered Kevin McGuigan

The review was called for after the murder of Kevin McGuigan in August – a suspected revenge attack for the murder of former IRA commander Gerard Davison three months earlier.

The murder of Mr McGuigan, an ex-IRA man, saw all but one of the unionist ministers walked out, saying that trust in Sinn Fein had been shattered and leaving Stormont’s power-sharing executive in chaos.

Crisis talks between the five main parties and the British and Irish governments have failed to resolve the problem, with these talks effectively awaiting the outcome of the review into paramilitary activity.

In the wake of the review’s publication, the DUP announced its ‘hokey cokey’ ministers who had walked out would return to office.

But the party’s deput leader and north Belfast MP Nigel Dodds said this afternoon: “The report demonstrates the scale of the work that lies ahead in the talks process.”


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