DUBLIN (AP) — The major Protestant party in Northern Ireland's unity government announced Tuesday it will resume its power-sharing positions following publication of an expert report into the Irish Republican Army that found the outlawed group still exists in the shadows but is broadly committed to peace.
The Democratic Unionist Party said it would refill the five administration posts it vacated last month when police arrested a senior figure in Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party, on suspicion of involvement in a Belfast killing blamed on IRA members.
The Democratic Unionist decision removes the immediate threat of collapse overshadowing the party's 8-year-old coalition with Sinn Fein, the Irish Catholic minority's major representative.
The Aug. 12 killing of ex-IRA member Kevin McGuigan highlighted the police view that IRA members remain willing to kill in defense of the group's interests despite officially disarming and renouncing violence in 2005, key commitments for Sinn Fein to gain a leading place in Northern Ireland's government.
First Minister Peter Robinson and four colleagues had walked away from Cabinet positions following last month's arrest of Bobby Storey, Sinn Fein's chairman in Northern Ireland and a reputed IRA intelligence chief. But Storey wasn't charged in connection with McGuigan's killing.
Tuesday's report assessing the current positions of the Provisional IRA — the underground group's formal name — and other outlawed organizations at the heart of Northern Ireland's bloody past did find that the IRA continues to be led by a panel of commanders who oversee both the IRA and Sinn Fein policy.
It also found that some IRA members still possess weapons in violation of the group's 2005 disarmament pledge and they do commit occasional attacks as part of wider efforts to control criminal rackets and their host communities. But the report concluded that the group as a whole was committed to sustaining power-sharing with the British Protestant majority in Northern Ireland.
The report said the major threat to Northern Ireland security is posed by small IRA factions who have rejected the Provisional IRA's 1997 decision to abandon violence aimed at forcing Northern Ireland out of the United Kingdom.