BREAKING: 'IRA army council still exists' Villiers tells MPs

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

The Provisional IRA's army council still exists, Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has told the House of Commons.

Ms Villiers was addressing the Commons on the findings of a report on paramilitary activity commissioned after the murder of top republican Kevin McGuigan in August.

The joint PSNI and MI5 report stated that the PIRA still has access to arms and is involved in criminal activity such as large-scale smuggling with isolated violence and murders.

The secretary added that the IRA would be "unable to resurrect the capability demonstrated at their peak."

The report also found that all of the other main paramilitary bodies that were involved during The Troubles also exist in some capacity. 

Ms Villiers stated that the report made "uncomfortable reading" and that all of the groups involved have gone on to commit murders since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

She said: "On the purpose of these groups the report concludes that 'it is our firm assessment that the leaderships of the main paramilitary groups are committed to peaceful means to achieve their political objectives' but that 'we judge that individual members of paramilitary groups with a legacy of violent activity still represent a threat to national security'.

“These organisations should never have existed in the first place and 21 years after the first ceasefires it’s clearly unacceptable that they continue to exist today.

Further, the report stated: "The PIRA of the Troubles era is well beyond recall.

"It is our firm assessment that PIRA's leadership remains committed to the peace process and its aim of achieving a united Ireland by political means.

"The group is not involved in targeting or conducting terrorist attacks against the state or its representatives."

 The report also found that both the UVF and the UDA's leadership have tried to steer members towards peaceful initiatives, but large numbers of the organisations are actively involved in drugs dealing, extortion and smuggling, which the SUNDAY WORLD has extensively reported on every week since the signing of the Agreement in 1998. 

Northern Ireland's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said in response to the report: "Republicans who support the Good Friday Agreement support the political institutions, support the peace process and don't represent a threat to anyone in the community.

"There are, of course, enormous and urgent issues to be dealt with around the existence of armed groups, paramilitaries and criminality.

"We all have a responsibility to deal with these issues to tackle criminality and bring paramilitarism to an end and Sinn Féin will play a full part in this important work."

The DUP has said that it's ministers who walked out of the Stormont Executive in the wake of the Kevin McGuigan murder will now return to their posts following the publication of the report.