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January 09, 2005

01/09/05 - Ahern: SF Knew IRA Was Planning Robbery

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IO 01/09/05 Ahern: Sinn Féin Knew IRA Was Planning Robbery –V
SF 01/09/05 Orde Has Not A Scintilla Of Evidence -Ó Caoláin
IO 01/09/05 Ahern To Stand For A Third Term


Taoiseach blames IRA for bank robbery - Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, reports on comments made by Bertie Ahern today

Ahern: Sinn Féin Knew IRA Was Planning Robbery -V

09/01/2005 - 15:56:06

Sinn Féin leaders knew the IRA was planning Britain’s biggest ever bank robbery while they were negotiating a peace deal with the British and Irish governments, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern claimed today.

Mr Ahern said he had consulted with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and had no reason to doubt Chief Constable Hugh Orde’s assessment that the IRA was responsible for the £26.5m (€38m) Northern Bank raid.

“This was a Provisional IRA job, this was a job that would have been known to the political leadership, that is my understanding,” he said.

“I am upset, quite frankly, that in the period when we were in intensive talks trying to get a comprehensive agreement that my information is now that people in very senior positions would have known what was going on.

“The Provisional IRA said that they had nothing to do with the Northern Bank robbery before Christmas but the PSNI clearly have reason to believe that they were involved and the Chief Constable has made that now absolutely clear.

“We have no reason to doubt his current assessment. It’s a very serious setback, public confidence has once again been undermined and of course the planning of this crime must have been going on for some time and of course this fact and the scale of the crime itself are deeply disturbing.”

Both leaders conceded that a deal to restore devolution, which had appeared within reach before Christmas, had been seriously damaged by the December 20 raid during which two families were held hostage.

Mr Blair said unionists were “entirely justified” to refuse to share power with Sinn Féin, “unless there is a definitive end to all forms of paramilitary or criminal activity by one of the parties that is associated with a paramilitary group”.

“I still think it’s possible for us to make progress, but it can’t be 99% giving up violence, and it certainly can’t be 80% giving up violence – it has got to be 100%,” he said.

Last month Mr Ahern and Tony Blair believed they had come agonisingly close to achieving a comprehensive agreement to revive the Stormont Assembly and end paramilitarism forever.

During those talks, the DUP and Sinn Féin – traditionally sworn enemies – were considering going into a power-sharing executive.

But the deal collapsed after the IRA rejected DUP demands for photographic evidence of weapons decommissioning.

The IRA also failed to give an undertaking that all criminality would come to an end.

Mr Orde’s statement means the IRA was most likely planning last month’s bank heist while Sinn Féin negotiators were discussing with Mr Blair and Mr Ahern an end of physical force republicanism.

The Provisionals were also planning the raid while Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams and party negotiators met Mr Orde in two ground-breaking Downing Street meetings.

Northern Ireland Secretary Paul Murphy is due to make a statement to parliament next week, when there will also be a debate on power-sharing in the province.

Democratic Unionist Party leader Ian Paisley is also due to meet Mr Blair next week when he will call on the British government to form a devolved administration without republicans.

But Sinn Féin have persistently denied the IRA was responsible for the robbery.

Security Spokesman Gerry Kelly today also refuted Mr Ahern’s claims that senior members of the party knew that it was being planned.

He accused Mr Ahern of electioneering.

“It is absolutely and totally false,” he said.

Despite the latest and one of the most serious setbacks to date, Mr Ahern and Mr Blair have vowed to continue with the peace process.

But both leaders have warned there can be no room for further ambiguity.

Mr Blair told the BBC’s Breakfast with Frost programme: “There cannot be a proper comprehensive deal for peace in Northern Ireland unless the IRA clearly and definitively give up not just terrorist acts of violence, but criminal acts of violence.”

Mr Ahern said, despite his frustration, he would continue to meet Sinn Féin leaders.

“I think ultimately we all have to be big enough to keep the peace process going forward,” he told RTE radio.

“We had finalised some very, very difficult issues during last year and we spent the entire of 2004 working to get to December 8.

“At the end we were essentially left with two outstanding difficulties which have to be resolved – one was the transparency surrounding the decommissioning of all IRA weapons and the other was IRA criminality.

“We wanted particular wording about IRA criminality.

“It was not possible for the Sinn Féin leadership to agree with that so therefore, as one of my colleagues said in those negotiations: ’If they can’t agree, why is it they cannot agree’.

“And of course that leads to the inevitability of the question is: ’Was the reason because they knew these kind of events were going on?”’ Alasdair McDonnell, the deputy leader of the nationalist SDLP, called on the IRA to immediately declare that its war is over and to return the stolen money to the Northern Bank.

“I’m not prepared to bow to the DUP’s call to exclude Sinn Féin in an arbitrary fashion, I’m quite prepared to give them the opportunity to work with the IRA to make a public declaration that the war is over and all units are being stood down,” he said.

“The IRA must also return the money to prove that their criminal activities have come to an end.”


Orde Has Not A Scintilla Of Evidence -Ó Caoláin

Published: 9 January, 2005

Speaking at the unveiling of a Memorial to Volunteer John Francis Green in Castleblayney, Co. Monaghan, Sinn Féin Dáil leader Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, said it was a disgrace that the Irish Government and most of the media had accepted without question the opinion of Hugh Orde on the Belfast bank robbery. He said Orde "has produced not a scintilla of evidence to back his allegations". Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"I believe there is a securocrat agenda at work. It is a disgrace that the Irish Government and most of the media have accepted without question the opinion of Hugh Orde, who has produced not a scintilla of evidence to back his allegations.

"Sinn Féin negotiator Martin McGuinness has stated that he was told by the IRA that it was not involved. I accept that assurance from a republican whose record in advancing the peace process is second to none. And I ask the Irish government and those sections of the media 'Why do you take without question the word of an appointee of the British government who represents no-one in this country while dismissing summarily that of an elected representative of the Irish people?' I think the Irish people will judge them by their answer.

Peace Process

On the wider peace process, Deputy Ó Caoláin said:

"It is clear now that the DUP were unwilling to share power with republicans at this time. I urge republicans to examine the detail of what our negotiators achieved which was substantial. The deal as negotiated would have implemented and reinforced the Good Friday Agreement. I believe that is why British securocrats have been continuously active in undermining that Agreement. They care little for real peace and see only the need to prevent Sinn Féin from entering an Executive in the Six Counties and the inevitable dismantling of the British war machine in Ireland."

Collusion and the killing of John Francis Green

Deputy Ó Caoláin pointed out that John Francis Green was killed 30 years ago on 10 January 1975 by a British death squad that entered County Monaghan. He said:

"Successive Governments in this State turned a blind eye to collusion - the use by British state forces of loyalist paramilitaries to terrorise the nationalist population. The Cosgrave coalition had allowed the investigation into the Dublin and Monaghan bombings to be wound up prematurely a few months before John Green's death. We know from the Cabinet papers that they were informed of the deployment of the SAS in the North. The British knew that they could act with virtual impunity along the border and into this State.

"And so agents of the British state came into County Monaghan and shot dead the young republican we are commemorating today. He was one of at least 47 people who were killed in the 26 Counties since 1972, either directly by British forces or by their unionist paramilitary agents. All of their families deserve to know the truth. Many hundreds of republicans have served thousands of years of imprisonment. Yet British soldiers and RUC members have never been held accountable and their senior officers and the politicians who directed them have never had to account for their stewardship of Britain's dirty war in Ireland.

"The family of John and of all the victims deserve the truth. The British government refused to co-operate in any meaningful way with the inquiries of Judge Henry Barron which included an examination of the circumstances surrounding the death of John Francis Green. That is not acceptable and the Irish Government must take the British to task and make them answerable to international opinion so that their true role in collusion can be made known at last."ENDS


Ahern To Stand For A Third Term

09/01/2005 - 17:08:19

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will contest one more general election before stepping down, he confirmed today.

Mr Ahern said he planned to lead his Fianna Fáil party into a third poll in the summer of 2007 before stepping down in 2011 when he reached the age of 60.

“Whatever happens in the next election – and my aim will be to make sure that Fianna Fáil are back in government – that will run the period from 2007 to 2012 and 2012 puts it on the other side of Bertie Ahern’s political life,” he said.

He added: “I will do everything I can to make sure Fianna Fáil are in government in 2007.

“I will stay that term but I won’t be around for the fourth term.”

Mr Ahern said he and Mary Harney, the leader of the Progressive Democrats, were determined to see out a second full term of their coalition government.

And he said he would be delighted if the parties could team up for a third successive term following the 2007 election.

“You’re unlikely to see a single party being able to win an overall majority,” he said.

“That is unlikely to be a possibility into the future, in my view.

“If Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats continue to work together, I’ll be very happy.”

Mr Ahern said he was hopeful that his party could do well in two forthcoming by-elections.

“Our expectation in all elections is to maximise our vote, to go in and do our very best to win, that’s what a political party should do,” he told RTE radio.

“We’re very conscious that it’s not easy for anyone to win by-elections. Nobody’s won a by-election from a government position since Noel Tracey’s win back 23 years ago.

“You could win two, you could lose two – but we’ll be going in to do our very best.”

Mr Ahern celebrated his 10th anniversary as party leader last November.

He was first elected to the Dáil in 1977 and has been re-elected at each subsequent election.

He served as Minister for Labour and Minister for Finance before being made Fianna Fáil party leader in 1994 and Taoiseach following the party’s victory in the 1997 election.


7,000 NI homes without power

Around 7,000 homes in Northern Ireland remained off supply today as Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) engineers worked throughout the night to restore power.

By:Press Association

NIE spokesman Robin Greer said it was hoped all customers would be back on supply today but warned that more storms forecast for later could today lead to more power cuts.

"There is further bad weather forecast so that could hamper work and also lead to new faults," he said.

At its height up to 90,000 customers were cut off after 90 mile per hour winds battered the province on Friday night.

Hundreds of NIE staff worked throughout the night to restore homes affected by the severe weather.

By yesterday they had returned power to more than 90 per cent of those affected after responding to more than 1800 instances of damage to the network.

At daylight, engineers were beginning the heavy work of replacing poles brought down by the storm.

NIE warned that it could be necessary to take some customers off supply to enable permanent repairs to take place.

NIE has received a request to send staff and equipment to the north of England to help restore power to around 150,000 customers.

Spokesman Robin Greer said: "We haven`t responded to that yet. Until we get all our customers back on and we see the back of the bad weather, our priority has to be our own customers."

He hit back at comments by SDLP South Down Assembly member Margaret Ritchie, who said the company had promised there would be no more power cuts.

"NIE committed itself to an improved response to storm situations which is, what we believe, we are demonstrating at the moment."

Mrs Ritchie had said the people of Downpatrick had born the brunt of the power disruption.

"After the severe storms of Christmas 1998 NIE gave the public assurance that such a breakdown in power supply would not happen again, but unfortunately that assurance is not ringing true for the people of South Down."

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Table of Contents - Jan 2005
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