When did the IRA say it was going away?  When did the ‘Ra announce it was dissolving and disappearing and not being a thing anymore?  I couldn’t remember, but surely the DUP must remember it happening, otherwise why would it appear to be surprised that the IRA continues to exist in its Veterans Club guise?

To be surprised that the IRA still exists, you would have to be oblivious to the statement made by the IRA in2005 and helpfully posted by Sinn Féin (as a matter of passing interest, I guess) on their website.  They speak of standing down but not disbanding.  In recent months and years they’ve had tshirts printed as an ‘undefeated army’.  It’s simply not possible to have even a mild curiosity for NI politics and not know that the IRA itself had continued to exist.

As I have argued before, the Provisional IRA needs to continue to exist as a form of demobbed legion, in order to ensure that the former volunteers are able to be kept informed and mollified by Sinn Féin. Only this way can they not be discouraged by the uneasy peace and slow progress toward democracy we have in Northern Ireland.

I don’t like the existence of the IRA any more than I like the existence of the UVF and UDA and others of their ilk.  I don’t like their petty criminality and vicious fascistic control over ‘their’ communities (again, I hate that construct). I despise the fact that, despite a statement in 2005 confirming that ‘all’ of their arms had been put beyond use, they appear to be able to shoot people.  I don’t like having to refer to a group of murderers who killed more of ‘their own’ community than all their ‘enemy’ forces put together as an ‘army’, because it clearly was not.

I say give credit where it’s due – the IRA is on a permanent cessation of the violence it had hoped would bring about a united Ireland, and it understands that the political route is the only one in town. Its members, however, appear to be involved in criminality and murder – and that’s as incompatible with ‘purely peaceful means’ as the idea that Sinn Féin and the IRA are not two sides of the one coin.

The idea of ‘peace at any cost’ doesn’t apply here – for the families of the murdered, both in the conflict (which I accept ended for the IRA in 2005) or in its aftermath, there is no peace.

The query I have is simpler than the ‘does the IRA exist?’ question posed by the Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and NI’s politicians.  I want to know if the UK government, the DUP and others think it’s okay for the second party in the power sharing executive to be so closely associated with the crime of murder – and whether there are questions to be answered on the same basis by the DUP and UUP for their associations with loyalist paramilitaries.

In 1998, we wanted an end to this shit and we voted for it. A whole generation of voters will have been born and brought up since we did. Time to put the past to bed.