RUC/PSNI chief Bryne: No comment on possible Gerry Adams probe and no new assessment on IRA status

The PSNI Chief Constable has refused to confirm if an investigation is underway into former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams and claims of his involvement in the IRA – which the veteran republican has repeatedly denied.

He also revealed he has not asked for a current assessment on the IRA’s status, considering it is not immediately relevent.

During a wide-ranging interview with broadcaster Stephen Nolan on his BBC Radio Ulster show on Tuesday, October 8, Mr Byrne was quizzed on the activities of the UVF, dissident republicans, bonfires, flags, drug dealing, Brexit, speeding and his determination to increase officer numbers. He was also asked about the loyalist blogger Jamie Bryson.

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Gerry Adams has been repeatedly accused of being a member of the IRA. A major BBC Spotlight documentary last month aired claims from a former member of the IRA’s army council that Mr Adams was at one stage its chairman.

Gerry A man u can trust (has always denied being a member of the PIRA

In May he told the Ballymurphy inquest: “I was not a member of the IRA, I have never disassociated myself with the IRA, and I never will, until the day I die.”

Police chief Byrne refused to be drawn on the allegations levelled at the former West Belfast MP and current Louth TD and if they were subject to investigation. He said it was for “others to follow the evidence”.

Referring to the ongoing independent investigation, Operation Kenova by former chief constable Jon Boutcher, he said he did not want to speculate while it was working.

Mr Boutcher is investigating the activities of the Army’s top ranking IRA agent Stakeknife.

On his predecessor George Hamilton’s 2015 assessment structures of the Provisional IRA still existed but the group was not involved in terrorism, Mr Byrne said he did not know the current status of the terror group and had no information suggesting the four-year-old assessment had changed.

Mr Byrne said he had regular briefings on threats from terrorist groups and their influence

“That conversation has not led me down a route to believe the PIRA exists in the way you say,” he said referring to the assessment conducted after the killing of Kevin McGuigan in Belfast.

Kevin McGuigan

Asked if he recognised if there was a “war” in Northern Ireland during the Troubles he said those involved in killing police or the public were “criminals”.

Turning to the UVF Mr Byrne said it was not an organisation “in conflict” but it still exerted influence in communities.

“We need to make sure the legitimate power and control in communities is with the police,” he said.

On the Avoniel bonfire which saw contractors named and threatened and the council end attempts to have the structure removed from its property amid claims the UVF would orchestrate violence, Mr Byrne said the matter should have been dealt with earlier.

The bonfire in the grounds of Avoniel Leisure Centre

“There was a whole range of intelligence at the time that really told me that two weeks before The Open [golf championship], did we want to get ‘played’ and drawn into a conflict on bringing down a load of pallets.”

He said there was elements of the UVF involved but it was not specific to them.

“Had we gone in heavy handed we could have foreseen conflict and it was about seeing the bigger picture in relation to one incident that could have led to copy cat violence right across NI.

“The means did not justify the ends.”

He said his message to all paramilitaries was “we are coming” and he would use every power available to dismantle their criminal networks.

On his comments on taking children off paramilitaries – which saw him referred to as a “child catcher” – he said his comments had been blown out of proportion.

The grounds were loyalists make their feelings known at the Avoniel bonfire in east Belfast

He said a sound bite got ahead of him but his message remained they were committed to tacking paramilitary crime and they had safeguarding procedures in terms of protecting children which would continue.

He added: “It is one of the big questions on people’s lips. How small numbers of people exert power, influence and control and ‘punish’ people in their communities for drug dealing and and to show some form of perverted legitimacy.

“We can’t tolerate that.”

He said it was one of the reasons behind his call for more police officers.

Mr Nolan asked the police chief about Jamie Bryson on his tweets of tensions in the loyalist community over Brexit.

Mr Byrne said he had not met him but was aware of his “strong presence on social media”.

He said he did not follow him but he was “clearly someone who could whip up sentiment like a number of influencers right across the UK and we keep an eye on that”.

On Brexit and on policing border customs centres – which he said his officers won’t do as a routine – he said there will be occasions police would have to be called in on a case-by-case basis.

He admitted he was in the dark on arrangements after October 31, when the Prime Minister has said the UK will leave the EU.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

“It is about being ready for Brexit and actually operating within the law and carrying out the duties and responsibilities we are paid to do.

“We have to adapt what we do in terms of our presence and out policing style.”

Asked about the dissident threat in the shadows of Brexit, he said they had planned for a whole range of different scenarios.

“Clearly anything that looks like the state exercising control on that community could be at risk of attack,” he said.

“We are in that space, whatever your views, Brexit seems to be rally fast paced and dynamic and my job is to not interfere in what government is doing in terms of its own preparedness and negotiations.

“We are here to give advice about security context for policing NI and respond to what effectively becomes the outcome.

“It feels a bit last minute, I get that, but at the end of the day we have to deal with reality.”

He said the threat posed by Brexit was the “million dollar question” and he could anticipate threats from dissidents and also a backlash from loyalist communities if jobs and agriculture was put at risk.

“At the moment our assessment is about a slow time change and we are working closely with the Republic and other agencies and it is about how we police NI to respect that changing threat.”

He said there remained a severe threat from dissident republicans but there was no intelligence to suggest there was a change in the “tempo of attack planning” against the state or police.

He said they worked with communities and other agencies to “keep one step ahead” of the terrorists.

On a loyalist threat he said protest could be anticipated from that community but at the moment there was no “emotion” or change in community relations but they had to continue to monitor it.

He said he was aware of how important identity was in Northern Ireland. He said many of the things that cause trouble in NI was about “winners and losers”.

“We have to look at that issue from that lens and see how people view changes.”

Asked about organised crime he said there was around 90 organised crime groups involved in the illicit drugs trade.

He said they varied in size, had links across the UK and into Europe and there were times they overlapped with paramilitary groupings and both communities

He said if there was a drift toward calls for a united Ireland it was a political matter and not one for the police.

Asked if he was proud to be British he said he was “proud to be from the UK” and also had Irish heritage, which was one of the reasons he took the job.

Chief Constable Simon Byrne, above, address the North of Ireland Policing Board in Belfast

Mr Byrne again confirmed his officers would continue to take part in gay Pride events.

Acknowledging some would see the event had a political purpose, his view was it was about respecting the identity of communities right across Northern Ireland.

“If we are to do a good job we need to have the confidence of gay and lesbian community as well to help us do that.

“To me it is a celebration of identity and not politics and also to demonstrate we will tackle hate crime which effects this community in a different way.”

He said he did not think Northern Ireland policing was “close” to being ready to end the practice of officers routinely carrying guns but conversations had begun on more officers carrying Taser stun guns.

On his personal life he admitted he liked steam trains and the Belfast giants, asked about his faith he did not want to comment saying it would be seen in terms of “winners and losers”.

He said he had no regrets on taking the job and had been made very welcome in the job in the 100 days since he took up the post.

He was asked what the most daring thing he had done in his time was he admitted to taking a short cut in a school cross-country run which taught him the difference between right and wrong when he got caught out.

With many thanks to the: Belfast Telegraph and Jonathan Byrne for the original story 

THE CONCLUSIONS ABOUT EACH PARAMILITARY GROUP.

MONITORING REPORT

REPUBLICAN GROUPING’S

Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA).

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Provisional Irish Republican Army (PIRA)

The structures of PIRA remain in existence in much reduced form. This includes a senior leadership, the ‘Provisional Army Council’ (PAC), and some ‘departments’ with specific responsilities. At lower level, there are some regional command structures. At this lower level, some activity takes place without the knowledge or direction of the leadership. We do not beleive the group is actively recruiting. The group took part in decommissioning between 2001 and 2005 but continues to have access to some weapons. PIRA has not conducted organised procurement of new weaponry in the period since the last IMC report of 2001. PIRA members believe that the PAC oversees both the PIRA and Sinn Féin (Shame Féin) with an overarching strategy. We judge this strategy has a wholly political focus. PIRA members have been directed to actively support Sinn Féin (Shame Féin) within the community including activity like electioneering and leafleting.

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PIRA on training exercise in Ireland

Some PIRA members are involved in gathering information of interest to the group including details of DR (dissident Republican) activities and the attempted identification of covert human intelligence sources (MI5), (undercover British Army) and (SAS). A small number are involved in the storage of remaining weaponry in order to prevent its loss to dissident republicans. Individual PIRA members remain involved in criminal activity, such as large scale smuggling, and there have been isolated incidents of violence, including murders.
The investigation into the murder of Kevin McGuigan is still ongoing;

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Catholic Protestant Dissenter

However, we judge that the assessment put forward by the Chief Constable in his public statement on 22nd August remains accurate. The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist atracks against the state or its representatives. There have only been very limited indications of dissent to date and we judge that this has been addressed effectively by the leadership.

Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

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Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) guard-of-honor at the funeral of Peggy O'Hara - mother of INLA hunger-striker Patsy O'Hara.

THE structures of INLA remain in existence but there is little indication of centralised control from the leadership. As a consequence, groups accross the North of Ireland operate largely independently of each other. There are indications that INLA is attempting to recruit new members. The group decommissioned weapons in 2010 but continues to have access to some weapons. There have been some efforts to redirect INLA towards community initiatives and a small number of members have taken roles in republican politics with the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP).

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Members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), prepare to fire a volly of shots over the coffin of the late Peggy O'Hara

However, INLA members have continued to be heavily involved in criminality including extortion, drug dealing, distribution of stolen goods and fraud.
INLA has also been responsible for paramilitart-style assaults and intimidation attacks against alleged drug dealers. These activities have a significant impact on the local community.

LOYALIST GROUPINGS

Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)/Red Hand Commando (RHC).

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Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), Preparing For Peace - Ready For War

THE structures of the UVF remain in existence and there are some indications of recruitment. A top leadership sets strategy for the group but there are lower levels of leadership who have some independence in decision making. The group took part in decommissioning in 2009 but continues to have access to some weapons.

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Red Hand Commando (RHC) a cover name that was used by the UVF.

The UVF leadership has attempted to steer its membership towards peaceful initiatives and to carve out a new constructive role. A small number have taken up roles in the politics with the PUP.
However, a large number, including some senior figures, are extensively involved in organised crime including drug dealing, extortion and smuggling.

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The UVF are involved in conducting paramilatary style assaults. In some cases UVF members are heavily involved in violence and crime.
The UVF leadership is committed to transforming the purpose of the group to community focused initiatives but have only limited control over the activities of its membership.

Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

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Ulster Defence Association (UDA) with members posing at one of their many wall murals. Remembering their dead.

THE UDA structures remain in existence but have become increasingly fragmented. The organisation is split in a number of geographical areas, each with its own structures which act almost completly autonomously.

The UFF ( Ulster Freedom Fighters), previously used as a front (cover name) for the UDA, no longer exists.

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Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF).

Organisation decommissioned in 2010 but continues to have access to some weapons. There are some indications of recruitment. There are members who have continued to steer the group into positive community based activism. However, others have been resistant to change and remained active in criminality and violence. Individual members and senior figures within many UDA areas are involved in organised crime including drug dealing, robbery, extortion and the distrubution of conterfeit goods.

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Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

There has been an increase in paramilitary activity in the North Antrim area resulting in a murder (Brian McIlhagga) for which a murder investigation is ongoing.
The UDA leadership are committed to transforming the group but have only limited control over its membership.

South East Antrim UDA

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South East Antrim UDA (SEA UDA)

SEA UDA remains a separate entity from the mainstream UDA. It retains structures similar to those within the mainstream UDA and its membership is engaged in the same types of criminal and violent activity.

During the Union Flag protests in 2012 individual members were believed to have been involved in serious disorder in the Carrickfergus area.

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South East Antrim UDA (SEA UDA)

Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)

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The late Billy Wright founder of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) and murdered in the Maze prison by the INLA

THE LVF exists only as a criminal group in Antrim and Mid-Ulster.

With many thanks to: The Irish News.

FIND IT IN YOUR HEART TO HELP A POOR PROD

TODAY we launch an appeal for much-needed funds for loyalist paramilitaries and Loyalist Communities Council (LCC).

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After giving up their criminal campaign, 20 years after they last promised to give up their criminal campaign, the Re-home a Red Hand and Adopt a UDA Man (RRHAUDAM) appeals urgently need your help. For just £50,000 a year could give idle buggers like Sammy from the Shankill a community worker’s job.
It would help to pay for the three holidays a year and the top-of-the-range car which he and his family so badly need. In return, he’ll promise to enrich the culture of his community and lay off doing anyones’ knees. Obviously he’d still be good for a bit of blow (weed) but keep it to yourself. But the suddenly contrite paramilitaries aren’t looking for charity. They will be bringing important job skills to any cushy number they’re offered. They have maths skills from years of working out if Jonty has a kilo of weed how many half ounces can he knock out if he expects a 50 per cent mark up.

Or if a local businessman refuses to pay his £80-a-week protection money how many bricks will it take to do his windows. They have invaluable people skills, honed over decades of dealing with the local community – the bookies, the bar men, the travel agents, the car dealers, the wee girls in the off-licence. And all they want is the chance to give back to their community by getting the jobs few of them have ever bothered getting before. They long to experience life on minimum wage and a zero hours contract because who needs qualifications when you have an overwhelming sense of entitlement. Our appeal so far has raised £1 million from the Tony Blair’s an Angel Who’s Still Fixing the World Foundation.

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VITALLY

It’s a tiny amount compared to the £26 million which was raised by the PIRA in their Northern Bank fundraiser but it was either that or cupcake sales for the next millennium. It’s vitally important that the paramilitaries are shown our love because otherwise they might just keep doing what they’ve always done for the last 20 years. There will be some strays from the path of peace, like Tyrone, South East Antrim, East Belfast and the UPRG who aren’t ready to leave the old ways behind. They will be humanely arrested for blatantly breaking the law, even though they’ve miraculously got away with a life of crime up to now. So please give what you can – support your local loyalist so he doesn’t have to.
With many thanks to: Roisin Gorman. http://roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com. Sunday World.

HAMSTRUNG HISTORICAL INQUIRIES UNIT (HIU) HAS NO CHANCE OF SUCCESS

YOU probably didn’t notice and there’s no reason why you should, but the same day that a certain loyalist blogger and serial self-publicist was giving evidence to Stormont’s Nama inquiry the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) snuck out its policy paper on implementing the Stormont House Agreement.

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Needless to say it got it got virtually no coverage in the tidal wave of sensational allegations made about the alleged recipients of money from the Cerberus deal. If you’ve ever wondered why the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) decided to draft the Stormont House Agreement Bill 2015 and bring it through Westminister rather than allow the clowns in the big house on the hill to legislate, once you read the policy paper all becomes clear. Quite simply the British government intends to control the Historical Inquires Unit (HIU), on what information it can have and what it can reveal. Anyone who beleives that the Policing Board will hold the HIU accountable is living in cloud-cuckoo land. “The secretary of state will have oversight of the HIU regarding reserved and excepted matters.” The UK government will prevent disclosure of any material or information ‘likely to prejudice national security (including information from the intelligence services)’. None of this material can be published ‘without the consent of the secretary of state’. Now as we all know from past experience, ‘likely to prejudice national security’ is whatever our proconsul for the time being decides is national security. When you look at the policy paper you see it begins with a questionable statement and continues to ignore all suggestions and recommendations made by interested parties, nationalist political parties, NGOs like the Committee for the Administration of Justice and university academics. In short, it’s a classic NIO document. It begins with the unconvincing claim that ‘the institutions have the needs of the victims and their families are at their heart’. No. The needs of secrecy in the Ministry of Defence, the NIO and the Home Office are at their heart. It has never been any different in the secretive British state.
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For example it was only in 2002 after Freedom of Information requests that details of Special Branch investigation into Charles Stewart Parnell and other Irish MPs were released and even then only in restricted fashion. The names of informers (touts) and amounts paid are still secret 125 years after the fact. Academics at QUB, Sinn Féin (Shame Fein) politicians and the CAJ among others recommended that former RUC and RUC Special Branch personnel be not employed in the HIU partly because they may have been complicit in collusion or cover up or both. The great merit of the Historical Enquiries Team was that its personnel were seconded from English forces and we all know why. However, ignoring all that, ‘the bill does not prohibit the HIU from recruiting persons who have previously served in policing or security roles in the North of Ireland.’
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So the HIU won’t work and the NIO has made sure it won’t work because it will only investigate and publish what the NIO allows it to invstigate and publish. Then there’s the Independent Commission on Information Retrieval (ICIR). It’s modelled on the Independent Commission on the Location of Victims’ Remains (ICLVR) which has worked extremely well. However, the NIO policy paper goes out of its way to make clear that while information given to the ICIR is inadmissible in court, if that information is obtained or can be obtained by other means then prosecution may follow.
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That puts the kibosh on the ICIR because given the record of the PSNI over the past four years, starting with the Boston College fiasco (all hearsay) and continuing with their apparent trawling after the killing of Kevin McGuigan with almost a score of people arrested and released, who is going to risk giving information to the ICIR to pass to families? Inevitably individuals in the PSNI/RUC would be working backwards from the material a family recieved. In mitigation it has to be said on the basis of evidence so far, that’s only likely in the case of prominent Sinn Féin figures. Buried in the policy paper is our proconsul’s admission that ‘on some detailed questions covered in the bill, there is not yet a clear consensus between the five main North of Ireland parties. Work will continue to build consensus on remaining points of difference.’ Yeah right.
With many thanks to: Brian Feeny, for the origional story, The Irish News.