Sinn Féin leaders believed to have left IRA Army Council

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

The Irish Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, TD, announced yesterday that he understands that Gerry Adams, Martin McGuinness and Martin Ferris, senior members of the Irish republican party Sinn Féin, have resigned from the Army Council of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.

Mr. McDowell, who most recently accused the three of being members during a radio debate on the 20th of February this year, expressed his belief that the three had resigned seats on the IRA Army Council, the paramilitary organisation's ruling body, within the past fortnight, but he did not think that this "by itself amounts to a severance between the two organisations." Adams, the Sinn Féin president, McGuinness, the party's chief negotiator, and Ferris, a representative in Dáil Éireann (the Irish lower house of parliament), have however consistently dismissed all such allegations of membership of the seven-man Council.

The comment comes as expectation grows that the IRA will issue a statement this week concerning its future, following a plea by Adams in April for the organisation to "take courageous initiatives which will achieve [its] aims by purely political and democratic activity." Mr McDowell said he was looking forward to the statement, but said that was "no question of governments on either side of the border tolerating the continued existence of an unlawful organisation", and that the IRA must decommission its arsenal "down to the last bullet".

Claims that Sinn Féin members have left the Army Council have been described by some unionist politicians, such as DUP spokesperson Ian Paisley, Jr., as a "stunt" ahead of the expected statement from the IRA. On Monday, new Ulster Unionist leader Sir Reg Empey expressed his opinion that "The only thing that is going to matter is what the republican movement actually do."

McGuinness is expected to travel today to the United States with senior Sinn Féin member Rita O'Hare to brief the Irish American community on the current situation.