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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 January 2006, 11:47 GMT
Unionist anger over 'IRA crime'
IRA mural
Policing Board members were told IRA still involved in organised crime
Unionists have reacted angrily to a police assessment that the IRA is still involved in organised crime.

The comments by Sam Kinkaid, the PSNI's most senior detective, contradicted Security Minister Shaun Woodward who last month said the IRA was not active.

The DUP has called for Mr Woodward to resign, while the UUP has said the police view was a "damning assessment" of his credibility.

Sinn Fein's Gerry Adams described the briefing as "a political intervention".

Mr Kinkaid, the PSNI's assistant chief constable in charge of crime operations, gave his assessment of the IRA's activities during a private briefing to the Policing Board on Tuesday.

It is believed Mr Kincaid said there had been significant progress in terms of ending some activities on the part of the IRA, such as paramilitary attacks and armed robberies.

'Challenge'

However, he told board members that no paramilitary group, including the IRA, has ceased involvement in organised crime.

He said the police had seen no change in this for a year.

It is understood Mr Woodward is to write to the Policing Board chairman Sir Desmond Rea on Wednesday night about the breach of confidentiality over the board meeting.

Sir Desmond said the breach had "damaged trust".

BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said: "I think the minister is expressing his concern about the breach of confidentiality.

"But on the key question of IRA involvement in criminality, he says he is clear - as are the police - that there have been significant changes in IRA activity, including in the area of criminality.

"But he says there are complex assessments to be made in distinguishing between criminality by individual IRA members and criminality carried out by the IRA as an organisation.

"He says it is the job of the IMC to comment on these difficult issues."

'Original comments'

Speaking on Wednesday, the Sinn Fein president described the police briefing as a political intervention which he said posed a challenge to the government.

The SDLP leader, Mark Durkan, said that the contrast between the police assessment of IRA criminal activity and last month's comments by the security minister raises questions about the minister's credibility.

However, Mr Durkan said he was not looking for Mr Woodward to withdraw his comments but thought it was better for everyone to settle down and wait for the findings of the forthcoming IMC report.

On Tuesday, BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport said he understood Mr Woodward was present during the briefing and said he stood by his original comments.

I've absolutely no confidence in the judgement of the security minister and when you lose confidence in a person's judgement in such an important role I think there's only one place for him to go
Ian Paisley Jnr

However, the DUP's Ian Paisley Jnr said he had "absolutely no confidence in the judgement of the security minister".

"The material which we received leads to only one conclusion, that the Provisional IRA are still involved in serious and organised crime," he said.

"That briefing was the same that the security minister was in receipt of and yet his conclusion is completely different.

"Now I've absolutely no confidence in the judgement of the security minister and when you lose confidence in a person's judgement in such an important role I think there's only one place for him to go."

Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey said the fact that Mr Woodward and the police had reached different conclusions on IRA activity from the same evidence "undermined public confidence".

"It is now absolutely imperative that the secretary of state immediately intervenes and delivers his own assessment," he said.

Alliance leader David Ford said the public needed to know the truth about IRA activity.

"I believe that the truth on current IRA activity, or lack or activity, will emerge when the IMC report is published in early February," he said.

The Independent Monitoring Commission (IMC) reports on the activity of all of Northern Ireland's paramilitaries.




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