19 January 2006

Row over 'IRA activity' continues

BBC

The Policing Board remains at odds with Security Minister Shaun Woodward over his assessment of IRA activity.

A police briefing to the board said the IRA was involved in organised crime, but last month Mr Woodward said the IRA was no longer involved in such crime.

Mr Woodward wrote to the board and said there was a distinction between the actions of individuals and the "intention of organisations".

Board chairman Desmond Rea said this did not address the board's concerns.

Professor Rea has made public his correspondence to Mr Woodward over the matter.

"From the briefing the board acknowledges that, in certain areas, progress has and is being made," he wrote.

"But on the issues of organised crime the board is clear that PSNI and the other agencies advised that all paramilitary groups were still involved in organised crime.

"This is clearly at odds with your position as stated during the briefing and in your earlier statement of 13 December 2005."

Mr Rea also said he did not believe the breach of confidentiality that led to the assessment to the board being made public emanated from any board member or officer.

He said that the board "awaits with interest" the publication of the Independent Monitoring Commission Report, "which will allow everyone to judge the position based on the evidence available".

Sam Kinkaid, the PSNI's most senior detective, gave a confidential briefing to board members 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.

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.

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