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December 23, 2004

12/23/04 - Special Branch Link To Omagh

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04

GU 12/24/04 Special Branch Link To Omagh Atrocity –V
GU 12/24/04 Provisional IRA Deny Role In Bank Robbery -V
BB 12/23/04 Police Deny 'Bank Robbery Botch'
BT 12/23/04 Police Officers Search Homes Of SF Michael Agnew
CS 12/23/04 Opin: N. Ireland's Lump Of Coal
IT 12/24/04 The President's Christmas Greeting

RT 12/23/04 Two Irishmen Detained In US Return Home –VO

Two Irishmen Detained In US Return Home - Damien Tiernan, South East
Correspondent, reports from Waterford


See video at:

Special Branch Link To Omagh Atrocity -V

Officer may have made anonymous warning call

Owen Bowcott
Friday December 24, 2004
The Guardian

The six year long investigation into the Omagh bombing - the worst single
atrocity of the Troubles - took an extraordinary turn yesterday when it
was revealed that a Special Branch officer is to be questioned for
allegedly telephoning through an anonymous warning.

The officer, who has not been identified, is now the chief suspect for
making the call received by detectives in the County Tyrone town 11 days
before the outrage.

The car bomb, which killed 29 people and unborn twins on August 15 1998,
was carried out by the Real IRA. Only one person has been convicted for
taking part in the attack.

The Guardian has been told the anonymous call, made at 10am on August 4
to a CID officer in Omagh, contained detailed information, including the
names of five republican suspects. The information was never passed on to
police on the ground.

The fact that the call was made has been known for some time but the
source of the call has never been traced. The Special Branch officer is
to be asked if he made the call, and if so, why.

In the call, he named those who he claimed would be bringing across the
Irish border four dismantled AK-47 rifles and two rocket launchers
belonging to the Continuity IRA which, he said, would be used in an
attack on police in Omagh on August 15. At the time the Real IRA and
Continuity IRA were effectively indivisible.

The caller claimed the weapons would be stored at a house close to the
village of Beragh, outside Omagh, and then moved to another address in
advance of the attack. The telephone conversation lasted between 10 and
15 minutes and the caller claimed he would contact the police again the
following evening.

The CID officer who took the call believed the caller to be genuine,
briefed the senior detective on duty and then travelled to Enniskillen,
County Fermanagh, where he informed Special Branch officers.

They allegedly told him there was nothing in the information and that the
two men named were ordinary criminals. However, one of the officers asked
that he be present in the Special Branch office in Omagh the next day for
the second call. It never came.

The Omagh atrocity has been the subject of successive investigations over
the years, including one by the Northern Ireland police ombudsman, Nuala
O'Loan, which produced a scathing condemnation of an earlier police

Mrs O'Loan found that officers had ignored warnings, failed to act on
crucial intelligence or question key suspects, and that the investigation
itself was a catalogue of mistakes. The Police Association contested her
report but later withdrew a legal challenge.

Relatives of the victims have in the past pressed for a judicial inquiry
into the affair.

The latest development is likely to highlight what has, at times, been an
awkward relationship between Special Branch and uniformed officers.

Relatives of the victims were angered by the revelation. Michael
Gallagher, whose son Aidan was among the dead, said: "It's devastating.
That call was always a concern to the families and we are still awaiting
answers. It seems to me to be the final straw in a long line of

Godfrey Wilson, whose daughter Lorraine, 15, died in the bombing, said:
"If ever there was a need for a full cross-border inquiry, then this is
it. How much longer do we have to wait to get justice?"

It is known that the August 4 call and the text of the information were
never registered on the database which was set up for the huge police
investigation and it was not until two years later, during a review of
the inquiry by the Royal Ulster Constabulary, that officers in Omagh
became aware it had been made. After the bombing, it was later
discovered, someone had written across the information sheet: "Nothing to
do with Omagh".

It is understood the new suspect has not yet been questioned. Assistant
Chief Constable Sam Kinkaid, who is overseeing the investigation,
declined to comment on the new line of inquiry.

He said the police service continued to dedicate significant resources to
investigating the atrocity. "All matters examined by the investigation
team will be forwarded to the DPP [Director of Public Prosecutions] for
his directions."

A high court action by some of the victims' relatives who have accused
five men of being responsible for the bombing is expected to begin in
Belfast next year. They are seeking £10m in compensation.

A crown court trial is also due to start of Sean Hoey, 34, of County
Armagh, who is facing charges involving explosives and membership of the
Real IRA. One of the charges against him involves possession of a timer
power unit between March 1997 and August 16 1998, the day after the Omagh


See video at:

Provisional IRA Deny Role In Bank Robbery –V(2)

Owen Bowcott
Friday December 24, 2004
The Guardian

The Provisional IRA yesterday responded to mounting speculation that its
members carried out the UK's largest bank robbery and denied that it had
any involvement.

In a brief statement by an unnamed senior republican, the organisation
said: "We are dismissing any suggestion or allegation that we were

However, a spokesman for the Police Service of Northern Ireland said: "No
one is taken off our list of suspects just because they say they didn't
do it".

The announcement from the Provisional IRA comes in response to repeated
claims from the Democratic Unionist party, the largest party in the
province, that the Provisionals were responsible for stealing £22m from
the Northern bank in Belfast on Monday night.

Speaking on BBC radio yesterday, Ian Paisley Jr, the DUP member on the
Northern Ireland policing board, said he would be surprised if
paramilitaries were not involved.

"This event bears all the hallmarks of Provisional IRA activity," he
said. "There is a kidnap victim, a series of very well-controlled crime
scenes, the precision of the operation. I understand the police have
already uncovered a communication interception to a Provisional IRA

But he added: "There is probably a lot of pressure on the police that if
they call this one, and they call it as the Provisional IRA or someone
associated with the Provisional IRA, obviously the pressure becomes very

He said that the PSNI had "woefully inadequate intelligence lines into
the IRA". But he acknowledged that demonstrating that the Provisional IRA
was involved would have extensive political consequences for the peace

Detectives investigating the robbery are believed to be focusing on five
gangs capable of carrying out such an operation - two criminal and three
paramilitary, including the Provisional IRA. They are reviewing the
methods used in recent, military-style robberies.

The Provisionals were formally linked to a £1m hold-up at a Belfast
superstore earlier in the year. The Independent Monitoring Commission,
the body set up to study terrorist ceasefires in Northern Ireland, blamed
the Provisionals for the raid.

The website of Republican News, the weekly paper that carries statements
from the IRA, says: "Republicans believe disaffected members of the
British security forces may have worked with unionist paramilitaries to
carry out the largest bank robbery in Irish history."


Police Deny 'Bank Robbery Botch'

Police have denied they botched the operation over the robbery of £22m
from a Belfast bank.

It comes as the serial numbers of 150,000 £10 notes thought to be stolen
were released.

It has emerged police missed the robbers by a matter of minutes.

Officers went to the area after reports of suspicious activity near the
Northern Bank's headquarters on the night of the raid.

Monday's raid is thought to have been one of the biggest UK cash

Police have urged other banking institutions, retailers and members of
the public to look out for the suspected stolen new Northern Bank £10

The serial numbers run from BC8500001 to BC8550000, BC9100001 to
BC9150000 and BC9350001 to BC9400000.

The IRA has denied involvement in the robbery, the BBC has learned. A
senior republican dismissed "any suggestion or allegation that we were


£12 m in new Northern Bank £100 and £20 notes were taken
£ 5 m of assorted used NI banknotes were taken
£ 1.15m of new Northern Bank £100 and £50 notes were among the stolen

Four people were held hostage at a house in Poleglass on the outskirts of
west Belfast

Two people were held in County Down

A woman was held blindfolded for more than 24 hours

45 detectives are working on the case

Police confirmed that a report of suspicious activity outside the bank
was received on the night of the robbery.

It is understood a traffic warden called police to report two men acting
suspiciously after a white van was spotted parked in a nearby side

A foot patrol had been sent to check out the reported suspicious activity
and it would now appear those officers missed the gang by just a few

Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule said: "Police did receive a call
from a traffic warden at 20.13 (GMT). Officers were here within five
minutes, unfortunately the van appeared to have gone."

He added: When officers arrived here, there was no evidence of a crime.
The gates were closed and it was some two hours later that a crime was
reported to police - that wasn't the police's fault.

"It wasn't a botched police investigation and I want to nail that quite
clearly at the start."

Police say they cannot yet confirm if the reported van was the one used
in the raid.

Detectives have released CCTV footage of the van.

Detectives said the possible involvement of paramilitaries was a "key
line of inquiry".

They have identified two criminal gangs and three paramilitary factions
that they believe are capable of carrying out the robbery.

They are comparing the previous activities and methods used by these
groups and comparing that with what happened on Monday evening.

Female hostage

At least 10 men are now known to have been involved in the robbery.

DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said there was "considerable speculation
that the IRA may have been involved".

"If the speculation emerges as the reality, it would deliver a lethal
blow to Sinn Fein hopes of being accepted as suitable for government in
Northern Ireland," he said.

Police said the robbery was carried out by professional criminals who had
"clearly done their homework".

The two bank officials whose families were held hostage are being
interviewed in depth by detectives who say the process could take several

Police say they want to establish how the gang knew which staff to

A female hostage held during the raid raised the alarm after scrambling
through a forest.

The robbers stole millions from the vaults of the bank in Donegall Square
West on Monday as the families of two bank officials - one at
Downpatrick, County Down, and the other at Poleglass near Lisburn - were
held hostage.

The bank officials are Kevin McMullan from Downpatrick and Chris Warde
from Colinmill in Poleglass.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/12/23 21:59:34 GMT


Police Officers Search Homes

By Nevin Farrell
23 December 2004

The PSNI has confirmed that police in Ballymena carried out a number of
searches in relation to serious crime in the north Antrim area but that
there were no arrests.

A PSNI spokesman did not give any further details but it is understood
part of the operation centred on the mainly nationalist Fisherwick estate
and that the home of Ballymena Sinn Fein representative Michael Agnew in
the Dunfane area was also searched.

The raids came just hours after a shop in the town was hit by a firebomb
with the incident suspected of being part of a wave of attacks which
police have already blamed on dissident republicans.

Homes in the same areas as yesterday's raids in Ballymena were visited
recently by police in connection with what PSNI said at that time was a
dissident republican threat against members of the security forces, but
it is not believed anything was found on that occasion.


Opin: N. Ireland's Lump Of Coal

Former US Sen. George Mitchell, who negotiated the 1998 Good Friday
accord between Northern Ireland's warring Catholics and Protestants,
maintained that the hardest part about the peace pact would be
implementing it.

He was right. In the intervening years, a power-sharing government (as
called for in the accord) came into existence. But it collapsed in 2002,
and rule has reverted to London.

And while peace has generally been maintained, the paramilitary Irish
Republican Army (IRA), which was to have fully disarmed and ceased
criminal business activities, hasn't delivered. The world was reminded of
that this week after an audacious $42 million bank robbery in Belfast
bore all the signs of a sophisticated IRA job, or one carried out by an
IRA offshoot.

Thankfully, the British, Irish, and US governments have not given up on
the Good Friday accord. For more than a year, they've been trying to
tackle the unresolved issues so they could bring back a power-sharing

Their job was made particularly difficult, however, by last year's
elections in Northern Ireland. Voters gave moderates the boot, and
instead supported the two most extreme parties: the Democratic Unionists,
representing the Protestants; and Sinn Fein, the IRA's political wing,
for the Catholics.

This fall, these parties' leaders, pressured by London, Washington, and
Dublin, came close to finalizing a a comprehensive deal to resolve
outstanding issues, including full disarming of the IRA by Christmas. The
Unionists wanted photographic proof of disarmament. But the IRA refused,
saying that was humiliating.

No disarmament will be found in this year's Christmas stocking - rather,
a lump of coal, called mistrust. The IRA has never provided details of
the kind or number of scrapped weapons, so no wonder Unionists want

Senator Mitchell called trust the "necessary lubricant in any diverse,
democratic society." It takes a long time, he said, to create trust. The
IRA is needlessly prolonging the process.


The President's Christmas Greeting

The President, Mrs McAleese, Christmas greeting

"A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.

"As I begin a new term of office, it is my special privilege to extend
heartfelt Christmas and New Year greetings to the great Irish family at
home and abroad and to all Ireland's friends.

"The past year was an exceptional one in Ireland when history placed us
at the centre of the enlargement of the European Union, as hosts of that
wonderful Day of Welcomes for the 10 new member-states. Now the citizens
of the 25 partner states set out on a shared journey to a peaceful and
prosperous future. And we in Ireland know more about peace and prosperity
today than at any time in our past. This is a successful and achieving
nation with a thriving economy and a vibrant culture. It is a growing
nation, young, multicultural, a place of opportunity and real hope. The
backbone of our strong civic society is and has always been a unique
tradition of robust, energetic, caring communities built and sustained by
voluntary effort. We are a people whose innate decency has inspired us
always to look out for one another and to work to make sure no one is
left out or left behind.

"This Christmas as many of us enjoy the benefits of our remarkable
progress let us renew our commitment to one another and especially to
those who are still struggling and for whom a helping hand could make the
difference between enduring life and enjoying life in all its fullness.
We owe a lot to those who continue to build peace on this island and
whose efforts have transformed hearts and minds. The central message of
Christmas has for two thousand years been a message of peace and goodwill
to all humankind and so it is my fervent prayer that reflecting deeply on
that message at this crucial time in the Peace Process, we may find the
trust and the faith to complete this journey of healing and

"I wish for each one of you a season of hospitality and of love both
given and received. For those carrying burdens that threaten to overwhelm
the joy of this season I hope that with courage and the support of
friends you will find a space to let happiness in.

"I have no doubt that Santa Claus will be good to our marvellous children
and that they in turn will be good to each other. And isn't that the
simple essence of this great feast, the exhortation to be good to one
another, to fill the world with generosity instead of greed. The Irish
have a legendary capacity for generosity - may each of us wherever we are
honour that tradition this Christmastide and make it a time of lasting
peace and goodwill, a beacon of hope in a very unequal world."

© The Irish Times

Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
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