The recent report of the Independent (hah!) Monitoring Commission—a New York cop, a London cop, an operator from Dublin's Department of Justice and John Alderdice—did the biz for the political system by declaring that the Provisional IRA had gone out of business. Just as it had previously done the biz in declaring that the Provos had NOT gone out of business when that was the answer the establishment wanted.
But maybe not entirely out of business. Tucked away in the IMC report was a statement that, "PIRA is not recruiting or training members and the membership continues to decline, and there is some issue as to what membership means in the absence of activity. In so far as gathering information or intelligence may continue in any limited way—not in itself improper if it does not involve illegal methods or intent—we believe that it is mainly for the purpose of ascertaining the nature of any threat from dissident republicans."
If the IMC is right, if members of the Provisional IRA are gathering information on people they believe to be in the Real IRA, the Continuity IRA or the INLA, to what use do they intend to put the information they manage to amass?
If they are fully signed up to policing, as they say they are, they must be passing the info to the PSNI?
If they are not sharing the intelligence they gather with the PSNI, what's the implication for their stance on policing?
And what is the purpose of the intelligence-gathering in the first place?
We might note in this context the remarks of chairman Terry Spence at last week's conference of the Police Federation: "I urge everyone in politics to...take whatever steps are necessary to stabilise the institutions so that we have a more secure future for everyone...The federation firmly believes that many mainstream republicans, including members of Sinn Féin, know more than just the identities of dissident terrorists."
I am not going to take Terry Spence's word on the issue. And I wouldn't believe the time of day from the IMC. But there's something odd going on here that nobody who knows the score is talking straight about. I think we should be told.