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January 08, 2005

01/08/05 – SF Still Committed to Peace

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

CN 01/08/05 Sinn Fein Still 'Committed To Peace'
SH 01/08/05 International Criminal ‘Behind IRA Bank Raid’
TO 01/08/05 IRA Plots More Bank Heists In Funding Drive
IO 01/08/05 Trimble Urges Assembly Ban On Sinn Féin
TO 01/08/05 Anti-Republican Website Pulled
TO 01/08/05 New Russell Statue To Be Vandal-Proof

RT 01/08/05 Passengers & Crew Stranded On Grounded Ferry – VO
RT 01/08/05 McLaughlin Warns North Deal In Jeopardy -VO
RT 01/08/05 Rosemary Kennedy Dies Aged 86 -VO

Passengers And Crew Stranded On Grounded Ferry - Gareth O'Connor reports on the damage caused by storms across Ireland and the UK

McLaughlin Warns North Deal In Jeopardy - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on the crisis in the Northern Ireland peace process

Rosemary Kennedy Dies Aged 86


Sinn Fein Still 'Committed To Peace'

Jan 8 2005

Sinn Fein remains committed to the Northern Ireland peace process and will not be deflected by allegations that the IRA was responsible for Britain's largest ever bank robbery, the party said.

National chairman Mitchel McLaughlin said there was deep anger among republicans at politically motivated attempts to criminalise the movement during an emergency meeting of the party's executive in Dublin.

Chief Constable Hugh Orde told members of the Northern Ireland Policing Board that he believed the IRA was responsible for stealing A£26.5 million in the Northern Bank raid before Christmas.

His statement led unionists to call on the Government to exclude Sinn Fein and press ahead with efforts to restore devolution without them.

But Mr McLaughlin claimed the process had been in difficulty since the Reverend Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionist Party refused to sign up to a deal in December and had merely been worsened by Mr Orde's statement.

"There is no doubt that there are those within the Northern Ireland Office who are seeking to exploit this difficulty to bring about the exclusion of Sinn Fein and ensure that the comprehensive deal will not be achieved," he said.

"The IRA has made clear that it did not carry out this robbery. "Hugh Orde went to the media, not on the basis of facts or evidence, but on the basis of reports from securocrats who have been working to undermine the peace process for years now.

"The objective of all of this is to subvert efforts to build on what has been achieved and to halt the process of change. Sinn Fein's priority is to advance the peace process and to defend the rights of those who vote for us.

"We remain in contact with both governments and remain determined to continue to advance the agenda for change. The governments know how much was achieved before Christmas and that the priority must be to get the comprehensive deal across the line."

But both the British and Irish governments have admitted this latest controversy is a massive body blow to efforts to revive devolution. Last month Mr Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair believed they had come agonisingly close to reviving the Stormont Assembly and ending paramilitarism forever.


International Criminal ‘Behind IRA Bank Raid’

Revealed: former British soldier known as ‘The Striker’ suspected of masterminding £26m robbery

By Neil Mackay, Investigations Editor

A MAVERICK international criminal with close connections to Irish republican terrorists is suspected of being one of the key brains behind the audacious £26 million bank robbery in Belfast which has been blamed on the IRA.

The English-born man in his early 30s is known as “The Striker”. During the Balkan wars of the early 1990s he fought in international brigades on the side of Croatia. He is of Irish descent and has also been connected with arms deals for the Real IRA.

His grandfather was one of the heroes of the 1916 Easter rising. Although The Striker has a long-standing association with the Provisional IRA, his current connections to the Real IRA have now confused theories about who was behind the December bank raid.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) has categorically blamed the Provisional IRA. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the Provisional IRA, has denied the allegations.

The involvement of a Real IRA sympathiser would throw into doubt the involvement of the Provisionals. The Real IRA broke away from the Provisionals in 1997, refusing to be involved with the peace process or the republican ceasefire.

Sources close to both the IRA and the British security forces say that they believe The Striker was involved in the robbery, however they refused to comment on what his involvement would mean to allegations that the IRA carried out the heist.

One British intelligence source said that The Striker was “non-aligned” to any terrorist organisation, but that his skills were sought after by both the Provos and the Reals. The source added: “The Provos have called him in from time to time for ‘specialist jobs’.”

The Striker is seen as a hero by many Croatians for the part he played in the Balkan wars, where he served with Croatian paramilitaries. The Striker’s most infamous act came when he allegedly sprang from jail the notorious Croatian military commander, General Ante Gotovina. Gotovina is wanted by The Hague for war crimes.

The US government has put a £2.5 million bounty on him. After a stay in Sicily with the Mafia, rumours now abound that Gotovina has been helped by The Striker, along with Real IRA operatives, to reach Ireland.

The Striker is close to Italian mobsters, and was schooled by Valerio Viccei, the mastermind of the 1987 Knightsbridge safe deposit robbery which netted an estimated £62m.

The Striker has also been identified as one of the Real IRA’s key arms fixers in Croatia.

The Sunday Herald has previously exposed the huge gun-running operations by the Real IRA in Croatia, and revealed that a Croatian general, Ivan Andabak, was behind the multi-million pound arms deals.

Perhaps the most astonishing claim about The Striker’s activities is that it was he who fired a rocket-propelled grenade – smuggled in from Croatia – at MI6’s headquarters in London. The rocket attack was also a Real IRA operation.

The Striker is a former British soldier. British security sources say that capturing him is now one of the UK security services’ highest priorities.

The raid on Northern Bank, which The Striker is said to be behind, has thrown the brittle Ulster peace process into disarray. Chief constable Hugh Orde of the PSNI said on Friday that the IRA was behind the heist at the bank’s Belfast head office on December 20 when robbers netted £26.5m.

No arrests have so far been made and none of the money recovered, but a number of homes in republican areas have been raided as police investigate one of the biggest robberies in British history.

After Orde blamed the IRA, Downing Street said Prime Minister Tony Blair believed that the political institutions of Northern Ireland could only be restored once there was a “complete end” to all activity by para militaries, including criminal activity. Blair takes the allegations “extremely seriously”, Number 10 said.

Irish premier Bertie Ahern said that trust and confidence in the peace process had been damaged, adding: “An operation of this magnitude … has obviously been planned at a stage when I was in negotiations with those that would know the leadership of the Provisional movement.”

Martin Mc Guinness of Sinn Fein said Orde’s claims were “nothing but politically biased allegations”. The IRA has also strongly denied any involvement.

However, DUP leader the Rev Ian Paisley is to meet Blair this week to discuss the ramifications of IRA involvement. Paisley wants the government to create a devolved Ulster executive without Sinn Fein. He said republicans had now “done a deed that has put them outside the present political initiative”.

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble said: “Gerry Adams [Sinn Fein leader] has betrayed the Prime Minister personally.” He called on Blair to exclude Sinn Fein from any Northern Ireland assembly.

Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, now says that any deal to restore devolution is unrealistic until after the general election. Murphy said the IRA’s alleged involvement in the raid “offended the principles” of the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is very difficult to see where we go in the immediate future,” he said, adding that he believed there was “weighty evidence” of IRA involvement.

09 January 2005


IRA Plots More Bank Heists In Funding Drive

Liam Clarke

THE IRA is continuing to train and recruit members as well as prepare for further robberies, say senior security sources.

Only days after being accused of masterminding the £26m pre-Christmas robbery from the Northern Bank in Belfast, the IRA is embarking on a big funding drive, the sources believe.

The robbery, which Hugh Orde, Northern Ireland’s chief constable, has blamed on the IRA, is thought by some analysts to have been designed to secure a “pension fund” for the IRA’s demobbed volunteers.

One British source said: “There is no intelligence to suggest that this was their last robbery. The intelligence available to the British and Irish governments suggests that they continue to train, plan and gather intelligence.”

He pointed to a series of robberies, each netting more than £1m in the past two years. The most recent, last May, was mounted on a cash-and-carry warehouse at Dunmurry outside Belfast.

Bulk thefts of cigarettes have made it necessary for Gallahers, a cigarette factory in Northern Ireland, to take goods to the Irish republic by boat through Liverpool because it is too dangerous to do so by road.

The Northern Bank raid is simply seen as the most ambitious to date and raises the prospect of the IRA turning into a criminal mafia to enrich its members and fund Sinn Fein.

There were few political repercussions after the previous thefts. This might explain Sinn Fein’s outrage that it is now being put in the dock and called to account.

Bobby Storey, the IRA head of intelligence, is believed to be the main planner behind the robberies. He also masterminded a break-in at Special Branch headquarters in Castlereagh where clues to the location of police informants and concealed listening devices were uncovered. This helped the IRA to avoid detection.

In an attempt to limit the damage the Northern Bank is withdrawing nearly £300m of currency and replacing it with notes of a different colour. However, it will take two months to print the notes and the changeover period will be at least another two months. This gives the IRA four months to get the stolen cash into circulation or converted into property.

The Irish police have been called in to help with the investigation. It is suspected that the stolen cash was taken to the north Louth/south Armagh area for storage in a bunker and that much of it will be fed out through money-changing operations along the border.

Stolen notes, many of them untraceable, can also be passed through the books of legitimate businesses such as pubs, taxi firms and building contractors in which the IRA has an influence.

Yesterday Paul Murphy, the Northern Ireland secretary, said the peace process had been damaged by the IRA’s alleged involvement in the robbery.

He said the raid “offended the principles” of the Good Friday agreement. “It is very difficult to see where we go in the immediate future,” he added.


Trimble Urges Assembly Ban On Sinn Féin

07/01/2005 - 14:58:04

Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble has urged British Prime Minister Tony Blair to ban Sinn Féin from any future Stormont Assembly.

He was speaking after Chief Constable in Northern Ireland Hugh Orde blamed the IRA for the £26.5m (€37.7m) robbery at Belfast's Northern Bank before Christmas.

“Gerry Adams has betrayed the Prime Minister personally,” he insisted. “Failing (banning Sinn Féin from any future Stormont Assembly), he should close down the Northern Ireland Assembly forthwith.”

Democratic Unionist Policing Board representative Ian Paisley Jr claimed there was no way back for republicans.

“The process is over for Sinn Féin,” he declared. “Bringing Sinn Féin in from the cold has been an abysmal failure, this crime of the century proves that. Now we move on without them.”

The North Antrim Assemblyman insisted Mr Orde had carried out a public service.

“I believe this means Sinn Féin/IRA are not interested in peace, not interested in the democratic process but have big interest in crime.”


Anti-Republican Website Pulled

Liam Clarke

A SPOOF website that accused a relative of Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams of being an informer has been removed following complaints from Sinn Fein and Vodafone.

The bulletin board is directed against republicans and businesses in Dundalk, the border town nicknamed “El Paso” because of the number of IRA members who fled there during the Troubles. The site hijacked the name of Dermot Ahern, the Irish foreign minister and a TD for the town, but he has no connection whatsoever with it.

Instead it is thought to be the work of Kevin Fulton and Sam Rosenfeld, two former British military intelligence informants who are fighting for a pension after their cover was blown and they say they were cut adrift.

Last month Rosenfeld bought rights to the British Army’s Intelligence Corps website. He and Fulton are believed to have used it to discourage people seeking to join the corps and accused the army of involvement in murders in Northern Ireland. The two disgruntled former agents are being accused by the intelligence community of being behind a number of other disclosures on the internet, including naming alleged British agents.

A native of Newry, Fulton infiltrated the IRA for years. He now lives in a safe house in England, provided by the security forces. He has been warned by police that he faces a risk of “imminent death” at the hands of the Provisional or Real IRA if he returns to the Newry/ Dundalk area.

Asked if he was involved in the website, Fulton said: “I’m not commenting, so people are free to think what they like.”

Many of the messages on the board were in the names of dead or fictional people. At one point Gareth O’Connor, the name of a man thought to have been murdered by the IRA on suspicion of being an informer, wondered whether a member of Adams’s family, living in Dundalk, was exiled from Northern Ireland by the IRA because he was an informer.


New Russell Statue To Be Vandal-Proof

Scott Millar

THE controversial statue of Sean Russell, the former IRA leader, in Dublin’s Fairview Park is to be rebuilt after being vandalised.

In order to prevent further damage, the National Graves Association, a charity which maintains republican monuments, plans to cast Russell in bronze or protect the new statue with bulletproof glass.

Matt Doyle of the association said: “We are awaiting a report from the sculptor, but it would seem that the present statue is beyond repair and will have to be rebuilt. Due to the constant campaign by some sections of the media it will be necessary to have the statue constructed in a way that hinders further acts of vandalism.”

Doyle pointed out that the statue is not just in memory of Russell, who launched an IRA bombing campaign against Britain in 1939 and died in a German submarine the following year, but all IRA members who died in the 1940s.

The planned reconstruction has divided local councillors. Naoise O’Muiri of Fine Gael said: “While Russell should be commended for his role in 1916 and the War of Independence, his role after that was way off the rails. We need a more modern statue there, of Phil Lynott or perhaps Maureen Potter.”

Christy Burke, a Sinn Fein councillor, said many locals were angered at the destruction of the memorial by outsiders. “They came into this area in the dead of night disturbing the peace of the Christmas period to desecrate a memorial to a local man whose family still live in the area and whose memory is respected,” he said.

Unveiled in 1951, the statue has become particularly controversial since Sinn Fein began staging annual commemorations there in 1996. Last year’s event was addressed by Mary Lou MacDonald, Sinn Fein’s Dublin MEP, and Sean Keenan, a former IRA prisoner. In 1998 red paint was poured over the statue’s head.

It was also damaged in 1963 when its arm was broken off by republicans who objected to Russell being portrayed giving what appeared to be a communist salute. A new limb was inserted, this time flat against the body. Being shorter than the original, it gave the monument an incongruous look.

Funds for the restoration of the monument are to be raised in a public appeal, and the NGA says it has already received offers of cash. The association also looks after the 1916 plot in Glasnevin cemetery and the grave of Theobald Wolfe Tone at Bodenstown.

Doyle says keeping the statue of Russell, who consorted with the Nazis, is a question of tolerance. “I would like to see a statue of Phil Lynott erected somewhere, but if someone decides that he’s not acceptable do they knock his head off? Because Maureen Potter gave a bouquet of flowers to Hitler, should her statue be defaced? This is an issue of history. Unfortunately many people were ambiguous about Nazi Germany in the 1930s. The Blueshirts, who became part of Fine Gael, openly praised Hitler.”

Russell, who fought in Fairview and the GPO in the 1916 Rising, was a militarist who wanted to unite Ireland by force. After he won control of the IRA in the late 1930s, he launched a bombing campaign in the hope of persuading Britain to leave Northern Ireland. The campaign caused 300 explosions, seven deaths and 96 injuries.

In the summer of 1939 he travelled to America to fundraise for the IRA, but the FBI suspected that he was planning to assassinate the British king and queen during their visit to Chicago and had him arrested.

He was stranded in America at the outbreak of the second world war, and forced to take a job as a steward on a liner in order to get back to Europe. On arrival in Genoa, he sought the support of the Nazis, and they eventually allowed him to hitch a ride back to Ireland on a submarine. Russell died in suspicious circumstances off the west coast, and his body was buried at sea.

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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