POLICE officers in Northern Ireland hold “great and justifiable concern” about a suspected Provisional IRA link to a Belfast murder.
The assessment by commanders in the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) that PIRA members were involved in the killing of father-of-nine Kevin McGuigan last week has raised the prospect of a political bid to oust Sinn Fein from Stormont’s power-sharing government.
The Police Federation for Northern Ireland (PFNI) described the development as “worrying”.
PFNI chairman Mark Lindsay said: “This was a deliberate and measured assessment by the PSNI, conscious that every syllable would be placed under the microscope and weighed and analysed.
“It is a very worrying development if a [terrorist] command structure can be activated at will. Our members view developments with great and justifiable concern.”
A 60-year-old man was arrested earlier in connection with the shooting. The arrest is the eighth made by detectives so far. The suspect was detained in east Belfast and has been taken to the PSNI’s serious crime suite for questioning.
Detectives investigating the murder have so far charged one man with possessing a weapon with intent to endanger life.
The accused - Patrick John Fitzpatrick, 53, from west Belfast - was remanded in custody at Lisburn Magistrates’ Court on Thursday. The other six held in relation to the shooting were subsequently released.
Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson has indicated he will hold talks with other executive parties about a potential Sinn Fein exclusion from the mandatory five-party coalition administration. Sinn Fein has vehemently denied the IRA was involved in the killing.
The IRA has been on ceasefire since 1997 and decommissioned its weapons in 2005.
Mr Lindsay added: “Officers are doing their best to police and safeguard this entire community and that means there is no place for murder gangs or paramilitary organisations which have nothing but misery to offer.
“Our officers are every bit a part of civic society and they too strive for peace without the threat of the gunman. My appeal today is to help the police find the killers. Only when they are put behind bars can Northern Ireland move on.”
Yesterday the PSNI said it suspected current members of the PIRA of involvement in the murder of former IRA man Mr McGuigan.
Detectives have said they are not in a position to assess whether the killing was ordered by a command structure within the outlawed and supposedly defunct organisation.
Mr McGuigan was gunned down in east Belfast in a suspected feud between former IRA members.
He was shot dead in front of his wife Dolores outside their home in the republican Short Strand last Wednesday.
He was suspected by some in the republican movement of involvement in the murder of a former IRA leader, Gerard “Jock” Davison.