Irish and British politicians have reacted angrily to this evening’s statement from the IRA that it was prepared to shoot those it believed were responsible for the murder of Belfast man Robert McCartney.

The Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, has said that ‘all right-thinking people’ would be appalled at what he called ‘the IRA's breathtaking statement’.

Mr McDowell said it shows that their only response to crime is to offer to commit crime and that their reaction to murder is to offer to shoot people.

He added that the Provisional movement clearly represents the greatest threat to freedom and democracy on this island.

The Northern Secretary, Paul Murphy, said he was appalled by the IRA statement.

Mr Murphy said: 'There is no place for arbitrary justice, there is no place for kangaroo courts or capital punishment in this country.'

The Fine Gael leader, Enda Kenny, said the IRA statement reveals the nature of the republican mindset and represents yet another attempt by the Provisional movement to minimise the consequences for its members.

Mr Kenny said the IRA had issued an unprecedented volume of public statements about this particular crime but had yet to produce even one witness statement from any of those involved.

The Labour leader, Pat Rabbitte, described the statement as a bizarre development that shows that the IRA has learnt nothing from the shocking murder.

'It shows that the IRA is still committed to the law of the gun rather than the rule of law,' Mr Rabbitte said.

The Green Party leader, Trevor Sargent, said that the statement was a chilling reminder of how the IRA equates condemnation and killing with justice.

The DUP leader, Dr Ian Paisley, said that the statement confirms that 'terrorism is the only stock and trade of Sinn Féin/IRA'. Dr Paisley also called for the leaders of Sinn Féin and the IRA to be arrested.