A curious Gardai press conference yesterday in Dublin, called for no evident reason, told us something that really wasn’t true: this was that the three republican dissident groups, the Real IRA, Oglaigh na hEireann and Continuity IRA were acquiring ‘more sophisticated weapons’.
This alarming message, delivered by Assistant Commissioner John O’Mahony, was then reinforced for the benefit of the assembled media with a display of examples of this new, frightening weaponry.
The only problem with the Gardai message is that the type of weaponry they now claim is making its way into dissident bunkers has actually been around for decades and is of a sort that has been in the hands of the dissidents for years and has been used by them to both kill and maim.
Included in this threatening arsenal were home-made mortars, AK-47 rifles, Semtex explosives and timing power units (TPU’s), all standard equipment for the Provisional IRA and their breakaway former comrades for some long time.
And how did they come by such material? Probably a very simple answer. The hiding of Provisional IRA weapons, including those that came from Libya, was always left to local quarter-masters, for obvious need-to-know reasons, and when decommissioning took place the same QM’s had the final say in what was given up. Given the politics of the IRA split that preceded decommissioning, it would hardly be surprising if not all weaponry was surrendered.
So, the Gardai claim is at best a stretch, at worst a convenient piece of fiction; pressed to decide I’d plump for the latter. But why make this claim and why now?
This is not the first bizarre piece of behaviour by An Garda Siochana in recent weeks. Back in October last year, in the wake of the killing of Kevin McGuigan, the British authorities delivered a report stating baldly that the Provisional Army Council still existed and that the IRA was still involved in ‘criminal activity’.
The police in Dublin, though, claimed otherwise and in a report prepared for the Department of Justice said there was no evidence that the Army Council was active in the South.
The report added: “There is clear evidence that a significant number of persons who have been associated with the PIRA remain criminally active, particularly in organised crime, and continue to associate together. They make full use of their ‘legacy’ reputations and in some cases their former terrorist tactics.” However there was no evidence that their activity was being ‘directed’ by the IRA leadership.
So the IRA was active and organised in the North but not in the South. Really?
And then in the wake of the conviction of ‘Slab’ Murphy for tax evasion offences, an evident Gardai briefing to The Irish Times said that the Murphy faction of the IRA in South Armagh might break with Gerry Adams should the former Chief of Staff serve any prison time for his tax offences, causing a potentially serious split.
As hints to the judiciary go about what should happen to a convicted defendant when he appears in court for sentencing, this was as blatant as they get.
All of which is fertile material for a suspicious mind. Taken together, the Gardai message on these matters, composed it should be remembered within weeks of a general election, seems to take this form: ‘Gerry and the lads are no longer a threat to this state but their stability could be threatened by well armed dissidents and an angry ‘Slab’ Murphy.’
The next sentence (or unspoken piece of advice?) could easily take this form: ‘But if they get a decent vote in February, and ‘Slab’ gets a break in the Special Criminal Court, they, and the State, should be just okay!’
Ain’t Ireland just a wunnerful country?