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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
December 24, 2004
12/24/04 - Police Raid Republican's Home
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04
BT 12/24/04 Police Raid Home Of Leading Republican
BT 12/24/04 SF Is Warned Over Any IRA Link To Heist
DJ 12/24/04 Smoking Strategy Smacks Of Hypocrisy Claims Sinn Fein
BT 12/24/04 Parties Row Over Civic Picture Hots Up
Bank heist swoop
Police Raid Home Of Leading Republican
By Jonathan McCambridge and Maureen Coleman
24 December 2004
Police search the Ardoyne home of leading republican Eddie Copeland. A
leading Belfast republican today said he had "no idea" why police hunting
the Northern Bank armed robbery gang searched his Ardoyne home.
Teams of officers in white boiler suits raided the Holmdene Gardens house
of Eddie Copeland at 9.30 this morning as part of their investigations
into the spectacular £22m heist earlier this week.
Mr Copeland said the officers left his 20-month-old daughter in tears
after they went through his home and opened 30 Christmas presents during
Officers remained at the house for two hours.
He also said they removed footwear and clothes as well as mobile phones.
Forensic officers were seen removing several bags from the house.
Mr Copeland (34), said the officers had told him they were investigating
the Northern Bank robbery but said he had "no idea" why they searched his
He said: "I have nothing to do with any robbery."
The well-known republican was alleged in court in 2001 to be a senior IRA
man in north Belfast during an abduction case which did not proceed.
There have, however, been conflicting reports in recent months over
whether he has become distanced from mainstream republican leadership.
Local Sinn Fein councillor, Margaret McClenaghan, said the finger of
suspicion was being pointed at republicans "unjustifiably".
"It's a disgrace that this family have gone through this on Christmas
Eve," she said of the raid on the Copeland house.
It has also emerged that officers searched two houses in the Lenadoon
area of west Belfast today as they attempt to close in on the robbery
Meanwhile, there was fresh speculation this morning that the Australian
owners of the Northern Bank have not ruled out a recall of all their
notes in circulation in an unprecedented move to stop the cash being
filtered into the economy.
Police have released the serial numbers of £1.5m of stolen £10 notes -
but the numbers on more than £10m of brand new Northern Bank notes are
still not known.
It is unclear why the Northern has not told police the rest of the serial
On Wednesday, police said they hoped soon to have all the serial numbers
of the new notes.
However, during a press conference yesterday, Detective Superintendent
Andy Sproule, who is leading the investigation, said the Northern Bank
had still not made known the numbers of £12m of new notes.
Late last night, though, police released the serial numbers of £1.5m of
stolen £10 notes.
A Northern Bank spokesman said today the bank would honour any notes from
the haul, provided they were obtained by members of the public "in good
A banking industry source said a note recall would be a complicated,
drastic and expensive "last resort" option to thwart the gang - but one
that was still being considered.
SF Is Warned Over Any IRA Link To Heist
By Noel McAdam, Political Correspondent
24 December 2004
Any IRA involvement in the Northern Bank robbery would deal a "lethal
blow" to Sinn Fein inclusion in devolved government, the DUP has
Deputy leader Peter Robinson's warning appeared to indicate relief in the
party that it had not recently signed up to a deal with republicans.
His comments came after an IRA source denied the organisation's
involvement in the raid but did not seem to be a direct response to the
But the East Belfast MP said even if it was shown the IRA was not
involved there was still a "vital lesson" for them from the robbery.
"In such circumstances the republican leadership would need to take
account of just how quickly and universally people jumped to the
conclusion that they were to blame.
"They will therefore be forced to acknowledge just how little people
trust them and how much they need to do to build public confidence. In
this context, the production of photographs to provide certainty and the
provision of a testing period is a very small ask and a very big must."
Mr Robinson argued the potential fall-out from the crime vindicated the
position adopted by his party.
"We have consistently refused to trust the IRA. That is why we ensured
they jumped first.
"That is why we required them to decommission before we would even set up
a shadow Assembly. That is why we inserted a period to test the validity
of an end to paramilitary and criminal activity before power would be
devolved," he said.
Meanwhile, an Ulster Unionist Assembly member has praised the alertness
and vigilance of the traffic warden who reported suspicious activity in
the vicinity of the bank to police.
Mid-Ulster member Billy Armstrong said it demonstrated the value and
worth of traffic wardens and that they were often the eyes and ears for
the local police.
Smoking Strategy Smacks Of Hypocrisy Claims Sinn Fein - Colr. Billy Page
Friday 24th December 2004
NIO Health Minister Angela Smith has been accused of hypocrisy over her
attitude towards the impact of smoking on public health, by local
Councillor, Billy Page.
His comments came after the launch of a twenty year strategy for Health
and Social Services in the Six Counties by Ms Smith who stated that it
was time to stop looking over one's shoulder and take action to protect
the population from the effects of second-hand smoke.
"Such sentiments would indeed be praise worthy were it not for the fact
that the minister herself is looking over her own shoulder towards her
colleague John Reid in England.
"Her consultation proposals on this issue merely mirror a survey
conducted in England earlier this year. In a written response to me on
this matter dated 28th October 2004, Angela Smith stated, "the
governments proposals for addressing smoking in Public places will be set
out in a white paper". She also added that it was intended to repeat that
survey around the end of the year.
"The NIO health minister is clearly guilty of hypocrisy on this issue. On
one hand, Angela Smith is clearly failing to grasp the urgent need for
the introduction of proper preventative legislation by continuing to look
over her shoulder at Downing Street's attitude, while on the other, she
acknowledges that the evidence of health risks from second-hand smoke is
incontrovertible and that exposure to second hand-smoke increases the
chance of non-smokers contracting lung cancer and heart disease by 25%.
"Figures detailing health inequalities in the North demonstrate quite
conclusively that those living in deprived areas of the Six Counties are
almost 60% more likely to contract lung cancer and will die earlier than
those living in more affluent areas."
He said that this "frightening statistic" is a damning indictment of John
Reid's statement that smoking was one of the few pleasures, which
unemployed and less well off people could afford - a statement, he
claims, that Angela Smith has never publicly refuted.
"I am sure that many of these people would prefer to enjoy a full and
healthy lifestyle with their families rather than face the prospect of
contracting prolonged ill health or premature death.
"Rather than engage in a consultation exercise designed to postpone the
inevitable, Angela Smith should act now and introduce a ban on smoking in
the workplace and all enclosed public places immediately."
Parties Row Over Civic Picture Hots Up
24 December 2004
A fresh DUP-Sinn Fein photograph row has erupted, this time in Coleraine
over a snap of civic leaders.
DUP councillor Timothy Deans refused to pose for an official council
photograph because Sinn Fein councillor Billy Leonard was also in the
Mr Deans said: "I, as a member of the DUP, refuse to get photographed or
to have anything to do with Sinn Fein."
While the IRA had arms he said he would not be associated with Sinn Fein
and he said he hadn't dealt face-to-face or spoken with Mr Leonard, a
former SDLP councillor, "since he turned his back on democracy".
Instead of criticising the DUP for failing to have their photo taken with
them, Mr Deans said Mr Leonard should ask his party to get the IRA to
Mr Leonard said: "This was a simple thing to mark the councillors who are
serving between 2001 and 2005 and two of the DUP contingent began to get
very exclusive about it."
He said other DUP members had posed in the picture and he claimed people
would see the situation as "a touch of Ballybackwards".
Mr Leonard said: "The childishness and hypocrisy of it will be seen by
Monthly Table of Contents 12/04