In an updated statement from PSNI headquarters, Det Supt Kevin Geddes adds one significant sentence, which does little to clear up confusion surrounding his first statement.
The sentence is: ““Our assessment is that Action Against Drugs (AAD) is an independent group which is not part of the Provisional IRA. But it is also our assessment that some members and associates of AAD are, or were, members of the Provisional IRA.”
One possible translation: AAD is a group composed of dissident republicans and Provisional IRA members who may or may not still be members of the IRA. But the Provisional IRA itself has nothing to do with AAD or vice-versa. Confused? You bet.
The only thing we can be sure of is that the PSNI believes the Provisional IRA still exists, hence the sentence: “….some members and associates of AAD are, or were, members of the Provisional IRA.”
The verb “are” is damning. (This is beginning to sound like a Bill Clinton press conference on Monica Lewinsky!)
Thanks to a simple misunderstanding and a communications foul-up, I was under the impression that there were two statements from PSNI Det Supt Kevin Geddes, when in fact there was one. My apologies for that.
This means that Mr Geddes was all along trying to say that while Provisional IRA members were involved in the McGuigan killing, the Provisional IRA was not. Square that circle if you can.
At the same time his statement clearly implied that a) the Provisional IRA does still exist and b) its members happily co-operate with dissident republicans opposed to the peace process and the ceasefire in an organisation that targets people accused of killing senior IRA members, viz one Jock Davison.
In other words determined opponents of the peace process work with and do favours for republicans whose leadership they abhor.
This is all so full of unasked and unanswered questions, as well as simply unsustainable propositions, not to mention the massive implications for the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement that it is difficult to know where to begin.
All that one can say with confidence is that Det Supt Geddes, and his press office advisers, have made a bad situation very much worse. Anywhere else and heads would roll. But that will not happen.
In a move that, intentionally or not, will rescue the power-sharing government from an immediate crisis over responsibility for the killing last week of ex-IRA activist, Kevin McGuigan, the PSNI has, as was widely predicted, claimed that ‘former members’ of the IRA were responsible for the slaying.
In a statement to the media this afternoon, the PSNI’s Det Supt Kevin Geddes said that members of a group calling itself ‘Action Against Drugs’, composed of dissident and former mainstream IRA members – and separate from the IRA – were responsible:
It is my assessment that Action Against Drugs are a group of individuals who are criminals, violent dissident republicans and former members of the Provisional IRA. They are dangerous, they are involved in violence and extortion of the nationalist and republican communities.
My assessment is that this is a separate group from the Provisional IRA. I have no information at this stage to say whether [the killing] was sanctioned at a command level or not.
The PSNI claim that the group ‘Action Against Drugs’ is a front for dissidents and ex-Provos is a new twist on the story and will be greeted with considerable scepticism on the streets of Belfast.
Not least of the questions Mr Geddes’ claim prompts is why on earth dissidents would want to do the mainstream IRA a favour by exacting revenge against the accused killer of one of their esteemed colleagues, Jock Davison who was allegedly killed by Mr McGuigan.
This suggests that the PSNI may next insinuate that the killing of Mr McGuigan was actually a plot to embarrass and cause political difficulties for Sinn Fein and the peace process by creating circumstances in which the mainstream IRA would get the blame..
In a place well used to conspiracy theories this one is in a place of its own.
One question that demands a fuller answer is Supt Geddes’ unexplained reference to “a command level”, as in: “I have no information at this stage to say whether [the killing] was sanctioned at a command level or not.”
What command level? Action against Drugs’ command level or the Provisional IRA’s command level or the dissidents command level? He doesn’t say. But he need to clarify this asap. If it is the Provisional IRA’s command level then this is an admission the IRA still exists, when it was supposed to have disappeared a decade ago.
One thing is for sure, the story ain’t over. Why, The Irish Times may soon be obliged to put its own staff reporter on the story!