We believe that there is no intention on the part of a number of those groups, in particular PIRA,to revert to terrorism but there still remain questions about how far this dynamic will develop. There seems to be a growing awareness within groups on both sides that violence and crime – even if they had been considered an acceptable option in the past – do not now offer a way forward which is either right or likely to bear political fruit in the longer term.
On this occasion, for the first time, we report 2 further dissident groupings. One – styling itself as Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) – has splintered from CIRA and the other – describing itself as Saoirse na hÉireann (SNH)
We conclude that CIRA remains a threat; that it will continue to mount real and hoax attacks; and that it will continue to plan violence and to seek to enhance its capacity.
We are of the firm view that the present PIRA leadership has taken the strategic decision to end the armed campaign and pursue the political course which it has publicly articulated.
There has been some press comment about possible changes in the membership of the Provisional Army Council but these remain unconfirmed.
We referred in our last report to intelligence gathering. We believe that the organisation continues to engage in it, and has no present intention of doing otherwise.This is an activity which we believe is authorised by the leadership and which involves some very senior members. While some of it may be for defensive purposes, it is predominantly directed towards supporting the political strategy. It involves among other things the continuation of efforts to penetrate public and other institutions with the intention of illegally obtaining or handling sensitive information. This raises the question of whether the commitment to exclusively democratic means is full and thorough going, or whether there remain elements of a continuing subversive intent going beyond the boundaries of democratic politics,
There are indications that in some areas PIRA units have been closing down criminal operations and clearing stocks of contraband goods, and we have no reports of PIRA sanctioned robberies in the period under review. However, members and former members of PIRA continue to be heavily involved in serious organised crime, including counterfeiting and the smuggling of fuel and tobacco11. As in the past, we are not able to say confidently to what extent the substantial proceeds of crime are passed to the organisation.
PIRA continues to raise funds and we also believe that it looks to the long term exploitation of the proceeds of earlier crimes, for example through the purchase of property or legitimate businesses.
To sum up, the position is not entirely straightforward. We see a number of definite signs of the organisation moving in the direction indicated in the 28 July statement. We see other signs which we would describe as neutral and some which are more disturbing. For example, some members continue to be engaged in significant crime and occasional unauthorised assaults. Whereas these assaults are not in our view sanctioned by the leadership, and may be directly against its wishes, the contrary appears to be the case with some other criminal activities such as the exploitation of financial assets PIRA had previously acquired or the illegal gathering of intelligence. The indications that PIRA appears to retain long term intentions to gather intelligence is also in our view a matter for concern. On the other hand we believe there is a clear strategic intent to turn the organisation on to a political path and there is good evidence that this is happening even given such constraints as there may be on the leadership in this regard.
In the 3 months under review in this report RIRA – within which there are two factions – has continued to seek to enhance its capacity as a paramilitary organisation. It has sought to develop its capacity to acquire intelligence, particularly on the security forces. It continues to develop its equipment and to seek both to recruit members and to acquire munitions. Some parts of the organisation are working on a long-term strategy and are focussing on the training of members.
Loyalist groups, which are violent as well as responsible for a wide range of other crime, have not made the strategic choice which PIRA has made. But there are some early signs of change amongst loyalists which we hope to see taken much further.