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December 21, 2004

12/21/04 – Too Early To Speculate on Bank Robbery

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

IT 12/22/04 'Too Early' To Speculate On Bank Robbery -V(2)
IT 12/22/04 Latest In String Of Similar 'Tiger' Robberies
IT 12/22/04 Bank Raiders Are In International Company Of Thieves
IT 12/22/04 Gang 'Incredibly Well Organised', Says Ex-IRA Man
BT 12/21/04 Gearoid O'Heara: Call For More Investment
VV 12/21/04 Irish Folkies Saved Jesus's Birthday (This Year)
IT 12/22/04 Slow Farewell To Winter After A Dazzling Solstice -V
IT 12/22/04 Chances Increase Of A White Christmas
IT 12/22/04 Order Decrees Only Irish Names

RT 12/21/04 US Reports Drop In Irish Deportations –VO
NP 12/21/04 Dubliners Lament Loss Of Legendary Cafes -AO

US Reports Drop In Irish Deportations - Jim Fahy looks at the
predicament of the Irish 'illegals' in Boston

Dubliners Lament Loss Of Legendary Cafes - All Things Considered,
December 21, 2004 - The Bewley's Cafes in Dublin, where James Joyce
stopped for coffee and the playwright Brendan Behan sipped tea
while waiting for the pubs to open, have closed, apparently for
good. Locals are mourning the loss of an institution. Hear reporter
Nessa Tierney.


Raiders may have had inside information: NI police - Declan
McBennett reports on the robbery of a Northern Bank branch in

'Too Early' To Speculate On Bank Robbery -V(2)

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

The Police Service of Northern Ireland has refused to be drawn on
the question of paramilitary involvement in Monday's robbery at the
Northern Bank in Belfast.

Mr Sam Kinkaid, head of the PSNI branch that investigates organised
crime, said yesterday it was "far too early" to speculate on which
paramilitary group, if any, was responsible.

He also rebuffed questions about a possible cross-Border link.

"We have had a number of organised crime gangs working here in
Northern Ireland who have targeted banks and bank officials and
other financial institutions, who have not had a connection with
paramilitary groups. But equally we have had a number of
paramilitary groups who have specialised in house take-overs and
the types of crime that happened at the Northern Bank.

"We don't know, it's a possibility. It could be paramilitary
related," Mr Kinkaid said.

He described the theft as "a very well-organised" rather than a
"lucky" operation, which could have taken months in the planning.

A large number of criminals would have been needed across the three
crime scenes - at the homes of the two senior bank officials and at
the city-centre bank, he added.

Mr Kinkaid said a fingertip forensic examination at the bank would
prevent the bank from establishing just how much was stolen.

"We have had to hold the scene at the bank today to ensure a
professional forensic examination is carried out," he said.

"That has somewhat delayed the bank's ability to carry out an audit
and to give me an exact sum.

"But on the information that I have received to date from
interviewing witnesses and from people who have been at the bank
since early this morning, I have been informed that the sum is
quite considerable and may be in excess of £20 million."

Mr Kinkaid said the need by the thieves to disperse or launder at
least £20 million in distinctive Northern Ireland banknotes, which
are virtually unusable elsewhere, would pose a problem for the

"That is a large sum of money to try to spend or to circulate
within Northern Ireland. It is an important point to raise in
relation to members of the public. Anyone who clearly is in receipt
of large sums of money or has been able to pay off bills it's very
important that they [the public] contact detectives."

He promised to release further details as soon as the examination
at the bank was completed.

"We are hoping to come back within the next few days with further
information that will help us educate the public as to the nature
of the sum that has been taken, the types of banknotes and what's
in circulation."

Last night detectives were still examining footage from the bank's
surveillance cameras and interviewing witnesses to the crime.

© The Irish Times


Latest In String Of Similar 'Tiger' Robberies

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

Recent robberies: The £20 million Northern Bank robbery is the
latest in a spate of so-called "tiger kidnappings". These involve
the taking of a hostage, usually at gunpoint, while a relative is
forced to facilitate a theft.

While electronic surveillance is more sophisticated, businesses and
financial institutions are at particular risk from employees who
are forced to over-ride security mechanisms by armed gangs who hold
their families hostage.

Recent high-profile robberies have centred on the greater Belfast
area and in west Tyrone. On the night of September 13th, armed and
masked men burst into the home of a family at Saul, just outside
Downpatrick, Co Down. The mother, along with her son and daughter,
were taken by car to an empty house in south Belfast where they
were detained overnight.

In the morning the man, who works for a security firm, was told by
the gang members to turn up for work as usual at his depot.They
also told him to drive his van to a golf club in south Belfast,
where around £500,000 was then stolen and the gang escaped.

On October 1st in Ardoyne, north Belfast, a gang held a mother and
child while the father was ordered to turn up for work as normal on
the Saturday morning. The gang brought a lorry to the Gallahers
warehouse in south Belfast where he was an employee and loaded it
with tobacco worth about £1.5 million.

Just over two weeks later, up to five men took over a house in the
Oldpark area of north Belfast and took a man and two children at
gunpoint to a derelict house about 25 miles away, near Antrim.

The children's mother was held captive alone in the family home.
The next morning, October 18th, she was forced to go and empty the
contents of a safe at a local post office where she works.

It was the seventh robbery at the branch this year.

On October 19th thieves threatened a man with a gun at an off-
licence in Omagh, Co Tyrone, before tying him up and stealing a
significant quantity of cigarettes. The theft followed similar
robberies since July in Co Tyrone in Castlederg and Strabane.

In all, 37 "tiger kidnappings" were recorded in Northern Ireland
last year; this year's total is in the low forties.

Mr Sam Kinkaid, an assistant chief constable, told the Policing
Board in October: "All paramilitary groups in the last five to six
months have been involved in serious robberies in Northern Ireland.
That's on both sides of the community."

© The Irish Times


Bank Raiders Are In International Company Of Thieves

Conor Lally

Infamous robberies: The £20 million (€29 million) Northern Bank
robbery in Belfast on Monday was the biggest heist ever in Ireland
and one of the biggest robberies ever carried out anywhere in
recent years.

Perhaps the most infamous raid in modern history was the great
train robbery in Britain in August 1963, when Ronnie Biggs and
other gang members made off with £2.7 million, worth around €58
million in today's prices.

The money was on a train en route from Glasgow to London when it
was ambushed. The driver of the train was hit over the head.

The greatest ever robbery, in monetary terms, took place at the
German Reichsbank following the fall of the Nazi regime in 1945.
More than $2.5 billion (€1.9 billion) in gold, currency and jewels
hoarded by the Nazis vanished. No one has ever been caught for the

More recently, during the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, his
son, Qusay, since killed, was said to have personally removed €890
million in euro and dollar bills from Iraq's Central Bank.

The bills were said to have been loaded on to three tractor-

In the Republic, the biggest raid in recent times was the armed
robbery of a security depot at Clonshaugh, Dublin, in January 1996,
when in excess of £3 million was taken. A Dublin based gang
suspected of the robbery is also believed to have stolen £1.7
million from a security van in Marino in January 1997.

In February 2003 some €100 million worth of diamonds was taken in a
robbery in Antwerp, Belgium. The raid is thought to have been
carried out by a gang of Italian raiders, known as The School of
Turin. They bypassed cameras, bars and reinforced doors to gain
entry to the vaults. They emptied 123 of 160 vaults.

In July 1987 the Knightsbridge safety deposit centre, London, was
the scene of a £60 million robbery. Property was stolen from 113 of
126 boxes and the managing director was among those charged a month
after the raid.

In August 1994, gems worth £30 million were taken from the Carlton
Hotel in Cannes. Three men firing blank bullets struck just as the
hotel's shop was closing.

In 1983 London's Heathrow Airport was the scene of a robbery worth
£26 million at the time. A gang of six armed and masked thieves
raided the Brinks warehouses at the airport on the morning of
November 26th. They removed a haul of 6,800 bars of gold and
platinum along with travellers cheques. Most of the gang was later

Last May Heathrow once again became the location for a gang of
robbers looking to strike it big. However, when gang members raided
the Swissport Cargo Warehouse around 100 police lay in wait and
prevented the theft of the estimated £80 million (€115 million) of
gold bullion and cash being stored at the premises.

According to the Guinness Book of Records the world's biggest bank
robbery happened in Beirut, Lebanon in January 1976, when
guerrillas stole cash, gold, stock certificates and jewellery worth
up to £22 million in 1976 prices from the vaults of the British
Bank of the Middle East.

(Additional reporting PA)
© The Irish Times


Gang 'Incredibly Well Organised', Says Ex-IRA Man

While the Northern Bank robbery was very well planned, there is
no guarantee it was a paramilitary operation, writes Gerry
Moriarty, Northern Editor

The first and obvious question asked in Belfast yesterday was: was
Ireland's heist of the centuries the work of the IRA?

The second question was: or was it the INLA, loyalist
paramilitaries or republican dissidents? Or was it an organised
criminal gang with no paramilitary links?

Are there any "ordinary" gangs that well organised to stage a £20-
£30 million robbery? One former IRA man, Sam Millar, who was
involved in a multi-million dollar robbery in New York State said
whoever did it would have been planning the operation for up to two

PSNI Assistant Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid, who has overall command
of the investigation wasn't saying who he believed was responsible,
which was a sensible approach. Bad enough to be landed with the
Christmas headache of trying to retrieve the money and apprehend
the bank robbers without drawing himself into a political row.

Mr Kinkaid said the robbery could be paramilitary or non-
paramilitary. Up to yesterday evening other well-placed sources
said they couldn't definitively say who did it either.

If it finally transpires that it was the work of paramilitaries it
will have significant political implications, particularly if it
was the IRA who raided the bank vaults.

It would probably wreck any chance of the DUP agreeing to share
power with Sinn Féin in the short term, and could put back the
chances of a deal to resurrect devolution until autumn next year or

Mr Bill Lowry, former head of RUC Special Branch, pointed the
initial finger of suspicion at the IRA, although he also conceded
that it could have been the work of other paramilitaries or former
paramilitaries who had now fully embraced general crime.

Mr Millar admired the level of organisation involved. "Whether it
was republican, loyalist or criminal, they knew what they were
doing. They were incredibly well organised," he told The Irish
Times last night.

With one other accomplice, Mr Millar robbed Brinks of $7.4 million
in Rochester in New York state in 1993. Unlike yesterday's
operation, the Brinks robbery was something of a comedy of errors.
Mr Millar could have escaped with about $16 million dollars but had
to leave half behind because the van they used was too small.

About $3.5 million was stored in an apartment where he lived in New
York city, taking up a space eight feet by eight feet and touching
the ceiling. Millar was eventually caught but escaped a 60-year
sentence because of something of a legal technicality.

"Unlike us, whoever were responsible were very sophisticated. They
knew they were dealing with a huge amount of money and needed a
large enough vehicle or vehicles to carry it away," said Mr Millar.

He reckoned the gang could have involved several people, some of
whom would have been staking out for a year or more the bank
officials whose families they held hostage.

"I'm sure they had the patience to test that the officials they
used were sufficiently senior to have access to the vaults," he
added. "This was very smooth. I suspect they had it all worked out
over a long time. They knew they weren't going in there just to
take half a million."

The gang wouldn't have the storage problems he had in New York.

"They probably had underground bunkers built for the money," he

Spending the money though will be a problem as much of the cash
would be in Northern Bank notes and also in Ulster Bank and Bank of
Ireland and First Trust Bank notes, which are all peculiar to
Northern Ireland.

As everyone in Northern Ireland knows, these notes generally will
not be cashed in stores and banks in England and Wales, although
some places in Scotland will take them.

There would also be Bank of England sterling notes, which can be
used anywhere in the UK, but it is likely that the bulk of the cash
would be in Northern Irish notes, which means that most of the haul
would have to be spent or laundered in Northern Ireland.

Mr Lowry said that because 20 or more people were involved in
aspects of the robbery, one of the gang might not be able to resist
boasting about the haul.

"That is where the police can strike, and probably strike very
early," he told BBC Radio Ulster.

Mr Millar however felt that such was the cunning and organisation
of the robbers that they would keep their mouths shut until it was
safe to start spending the loot.

"Where this gang has the advantage is that it probably has the
patience to bide its time."

© The Irish Times


Gearoid O'Heara: Call For More Investment

All parties welcome rail service reprieve

By Robin Morton and Brendan McDaid
21 December 2004

Politicians of all parties united today to welcome the Government's
decision to reprieve the railway lines to Londonderry and Larne.

But they also called for further investment to be made to enable
train services to be radically improved.

The future of both lines has been secured for at least the next
five years as a result of the spending plan announced yesterday by
the Government.

Provision was made in the budget for Option Two with funding of
£23.6m which will mean track upgrades which will allow existing
schedules to be maintained.

The decision represents an improvement on the draft Budget
published in October, which had recommended Option 1.

This would have kept the lines open, but the funding of £17.4m
would not have allowed for track improvements, the result of which
would have been slower schedules.

A question mark has been hanging over the future of the so-called
non-core network north of Ballymena and Whitehead for almost 18
months, since a review was ordered.

The breakthrough was welcomed by politicians, but there were calls
for progress to be made towards Option 3, which would allow an
upgrade of the lines.

The news was broken as politicians joined Translink officials on
the inauguaral run of one of the new C3K trains on the Belfast to
Londonderry line.

Gearoid O'hEara, the Sinn Fein mayor of Derry, said he was urging
the people of the city to make more use of the rail service.

"Now that the line has been saved I want to see people supporting
the railway. But what we need most is an upgrade of the track."

Gregory Campbell, the East Londonderry DUP MP, a former Regional
Development Minister said the train could offer an alternative to
the car if new trains were used and the track improved.

Former Finance Minister Mark Durkan, who authorised the funding for
the trains, said Option 3 must be the next target.

SDLP Assembly member John Dallat paid tribute to those who had
lobbied so effectively for the railway lines to be retained.

Councillor Drew Ritchie (UUP) from Antrim said they wanted to see
the Lisburn-Antrim line re-opened.

Mal McGreevy, general manager (rail) with Translink, said the
budget announcement was "encouraging news".

He said: "We are pleased that the network is to remain intact but
there is still a need for further investment."

The Socialist and Environmental Alliance accused the Government of
offering "half a loaf" to the North West.

SEA spokesman Davey McAuley said major investment was needed if the
Derry line was to have a long-term future.


Folkies Show How The Irish Saved Jesus's Birthday (This Year)

by Tom Smucker
December 22nd, 2004 1:01 PM

Maybe there's finally enough Christmas music, or maybe it's
election fallout. Exploring the Xmas intersection of cheesy and
ironic? No thanks, I've had my fill. Got lots of roots obscurities?
Obscurity without illumination is just what I'm afraid of. How
about that volatile mix of commerce and religion? I've had enough.

So Irish American female folkies recorded the only current CD that
fills my bill this year—a modulation of the familiar mixed with
something fresh in a consistent voice that doesn't overstay its
welcome. I'm no Celtic music devotee and have never been to County
Kildare, although I do know Yonkers. But I can feel the immigrant's
lament in the fiddle and the whistle. My Christmas memories take me
back to my vinyl, and my vinyl takes me back to its American roots:
that gospel choir in the little country church down South and the
place across the ocean the Clancy Brothers came from. Jesus was
Jewish, and for a while he was German, but the music says he turned
Irish and African as soon as he had the chance.

When the Ladies bracket lead singer Heidi Talbot's take on the
Great Christmas Songbook with trad-sounding instrumentals, I hear
something, well, Irish American, that forward-backward, ethnic-
universal thing modern folk music was designed for. Talbot is
exquisite throughout, Björk combined with Enya. Of course, in this
genre exquisite can get dull—too much purity makes you desperate
for a blue note. But the Ladies pace Talbot with reels and slow
songs and a few judicious harmonies that set up a tasteful,
heartfelt context, so by the middle of the record even "The Little
Drummer Boy" is bearable. With "O Holy Night," the showstopper at
churches everywhere, Talbot makes it new by hitting the center of
each note after "Fall on your knees" without deploying the
customary volume or drama. And that's the drama. Followed by a


Hundreds gather for winter solstice - Richard Dowling, North-East
Correspondent, reports from Newgrange on the shortest day of the

Slow Farewell To Winter After A Dazzling Solstice -V

Eileen Battersby in Newgrange

Fingers of pink began to disperse the stars as the longest night
of the year slowly surrendered to dawn. Honouring a late 20th-
century practice, created by ancient man long before modern
archaeologists had studied the calculated alignment of science and
nature, Newgrange watchers gathered at the majestic Late Stone Age
monument in Co Meath yesterday.

Drawn by the hope of watching the rising sun herald the decline of
winter, both the ticket-holding elite and the onlookers standing
outside were magnificently rewarded.

For many pilgrims, attendance at Brú Na Boinne is part of an annual
ritual marking the start of Christmas. For others, arriving with
expressions of anticipation, and some uncertainty, it was a new
experience. "Will Santa be here?" asked one little boy, who quickly
answered his own question, "I know, he's still really busy at the
North Pole." Other watchers looked to the sky and smiled knowingly.

Multi-coloured woollen hats and other seasonal headwear did suggest
the morning was far colder than it was. Despite the icy roads, the
temperature was no sharper than brisk. There was no wind. A
filigree of cloud maintained a respectful distance. So clear had
the brightening sky become by 8.30 that the large crowd
collectively relaxed, confident of sharing a glory devised by
nature and brilliantly recognised by early man.

A young woman draped in a rainbow muffler arrived solemn faced and
carrying a yellow lantern. She stood at the outside wall of the
monument, looking east. A small white dog pattered about, sat and
prepared to groom herself as if in preparation for the coming
spectacle. Two men in business suits surveyed the scene. "There's
no druids," said one of them. His companion took another look
before announcing: "I think they tend to be based at Tara." Below
the local horizon, topped by its tree-lined ridge, the River Boyne
emerging from the light mist was a motionless silver ribbon.
Outside the monument, a triumph of science and spirituality, there
was no tension, no anxious whispers. No black clouds arrived to
threaten the outcome. Sunrise, during the five mornings of the mid-
winter solstice, enjoys a far greater significance than throughout
the rest of the year. On no other morning, bar Easter Day, is the
sun as symbolic.

Across the valley, a yellow light began to rise as if from behind
the ridge. The crowd chatted on. The light became brighter, even
more yellow. At 8.52, a slim golden blister appeared. On cue, the
onlookers cheered. As the glow increased, the hillside retreated
into shadow. By 8.55 the sun was moving faster, climbing higher.
Its powerful beam had found its heart, the roofbox of the monument
built by the ancients in honour of their dead.

Meanwhile, the great boulder-like standing stones that seem to
guard the entrance, basked in the light. Ironically, the pilgrims,
having turned their backs to the sun, now looked towards the long,
narrow passageway about to be illuminated. Cameras were hoisted.
Members of the gardaí smiled benignly.

Inside the chamber, darkness began to yield to the golden beam that
proceeded up the sanded floor of the passage. On dull mornings the
party inside the chamber discuss other solstices, years in which
the sun made a triumphant appearance. Yesterday was perfection. In
the flood of warm honey light mere words became redundant. Tom
Parlon, Minister of State for the Office of Public works exited the
passageway as if he had seen a vision, a rare experience for any
politician. The emerging photographers looked so smug, those
standing outside could only squeeze their camera in silent

The same little dog who had groomed herself now dashed towards the
passageway in search of fame, or at least a photo. She was
apprehended by her embarrassed owner. "I didn't want her to spoil
the sacred moment." She didn't. No one could have.

Later a much smaller group of solstice pilgrims gathered at Dowth,
another of the Boyne Valley ceremonial mounds. After a day of
beautiful skies, a fine sunset was expected. The clouds decided
otherwise. A startled bat fluttered about the chamber.

Light faded. Even so, Winter had now begun its slow farewell.

© The Irish Times


Chances Increase Of A White Christmas

Auriole Fountaine and Daniel McConnell

The chances of a white Christmas are the best they have been in
many years, according to Met Éireann, with freezing and showery
spells forecast for the coming weekend.

Conditions will remain mild until late this evening, but will turn
colder overnight, with gales expected tomorrow. Temperatures are
then expected to plummet to well below freezing during Christmas
Eve and Christmas Day.

According to Met Éireann, winds from Greenland are due to sweep
into the north and north-west of the country. As a result, any
showers in those areas are "very likely to be snow or at least
sleet". Coastal areas are to be worst affected, with heavy showers
expected to hit Ireland before easing off in inland areas.

A spokesman for Met Éireann said: "The highest temperatures are
only likely to reach 2 or 3 degrees Celsius. However, when one
considers the high wind-chill factor that will be present,
conditions are more likely to feel as low as minus three or four

Bookmakers yesterday slashed the odds on a white Christmas, with
brisk business reported.

Odds of 5/2 for snow on Saturday were being offered, compared to
odds of 8/1 last week.

A spokesman for Paddy Power said the bookmakers hadn't seen as much
interest in betting on snowfall on Christmas Day for years.

A white Christmas is only officially recorded if snowfall is
registered at Met Éireann's station at Dublin Airport.

The last time bookmakers paid out on a white Christmas was 1991.
According to Met Éireann, there have been only 11 white Christmases
since 1941 at Dublin Airport.

Meanwhile, motorists have been warned that driving conditions could
be "treacherous" this weekend because of heavy showers and
temperatures falling below freezing.

The spokesman said motorists can expect "difficult conditions
throughout the country but especially in coastal areas".

The north and north-west regions of the country are to be worst
affected, with local councils on standby to deal with roads likely
to be cut off as a result of the extreme weather conditions.

© The Irish Times


Order Decrees Only Irish Names

Lorna Siggins, Western Correspondent

People heading for their holiday home in Roundstone next spring
will have to make sure they following signs for Cloch na Ron.

This follows the signing into law of the Placenames Order
(Gaeltacht Districts), 2004, by the Minister for Community, Rural
and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Ó Cuív, yesterday.

The order, which includes the names of 2,319 townlands in all of
the State's Gaeltacht areas, will come into force next March 28th.

Under the order, only the Irish-language version of placenames will
appear on road and street signage in Gaeltacht districts.

Definitive large-scale Ordnance Survey maps of Gaeltacht areas will
also be covered by the ruling, and the provision will be extended
to cover other maps over a period of time, according to the

English-language versions of placenames identified in the order
will no longer be legal, but private use and most public use of

language versions will not be affected.

Road signs are already in Irish in Gaeltacht areas under an order
made in 1970. However, signs in non-Gaeltacht areas which point to
places in the Gaeltacht will have to be changed.

© The Irish Times

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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