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Mary Lou McDonald: Sinn Féin leader says IRA no longer exists

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald Image copyright Sinn Fein
Image caption Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald was speaking at an event in County Louth on Friday

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald has said the IRA does not exist following comments by Ireland's Garda Commissioner (head of police).

Drew Harris said he did not differ from the views of a PSNI report on the relationship between the Provisional IRA (PIRA) and Sinn Féin.

That report stated that "PIRA members believe the army council oversees Sinn Féin with an overarching strategy".

It added that that strategy had a "wholly political focus".

Asked about the relationship between Sinn Féin and the Provisional IRA at a graduation ceremony for new garda recruits, Commissioner Harris said: "I am aware of the PSNI and the British security services assessment and we do not differ from that view."

Later on Friday, at an event for Northern Ireland MLAs in Dundalk, Ms McDonald was asked if the IRA still exists, even as political organisation.

'War is over'

She replied that it does not, "so far as I am aware".

She added: "I don't answer for the IRA, I'm not a spokesperson for the IRA. I'm the leader of Sinn Féin and I'm telling you, the war is over."

Asked if a provisional army council exists, Ms McDonald said: "No. I mean I've no contact or relationship with the IRA".

She described Sinn Féin as an open, growing and democratic organisation and as "a grassroots organisation, the membership is in the driving seat".

Image caption Garda Commissioner Drew Harris said his force agreed with a PSNI assessment

"Nobody directs Sinn Féin other than Sinn Féin members and the Sinn Féin leadership," she said.

"I'm the leader of Sinn Féin, I know who runs Sinn Féin."

She added that republicans are "absolutely wedded to democracy and peace".

At the garda graduation ceremony, Commissioner Harris was also asked if he would have concerns about Sinn Féin in government.

He replied that he had "heavy responsibilities in terms of protecting the people of Ireland in preventing and detecting crime" and that An Garda Síochána "will work with whatever minister to achieve those aims".

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