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)

January 18, 2005

01/18/05 – IRA Statement Denies Bank Robbery

Northern Bank Twenty Pound Note Posted by Hello

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

IT 01/19/05 Statement From IRA Denies Part In Bank Robbery
IT 01/19/05 Northern Bank Man Tells Of Ordeal
IT 01/19/05 SF Remarks On Woman's Killing Widely Criticised
IT 01/19/05 Jean McConville: Her Story
IT 01/19/05 Contact With SF Resumes Next Week
IT 01/19/05 Greater Church Role In Peace Process Advocated
IT 01/19/05 Bewley's Plans To Extend Dublin Hotel
IT 01/19/05 Experts To Claim NRA Defence Of Tara Route Is Flawed

RT 01/18/05 Violent Death Of Daniel O'Callaghan In Gran Canaria -VO

Violent Death Of Daniel O'Callaghan In Gran Canaria - Ken O'Shea investigates the background to the story of Daniel O'Callaghan's death


Statement From IRA Denies Part In Bank Robbery

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

The Provisional IRA has issued a blunt denial of any involvement in the theft of £26.5 million (€37.85) at the Northern Bank in Belfast last month.

In a terse two-sentence statement, released last night, the organisation simply stated: "The IRA has been accused of involvement in the recent Northern Bank robbery. We were not involved." The statement was signed "P O'Neill", the usual signatory of official statements issued by the IRA.

It follows an assertion by the Chief Constable, Mr Hugh Orde, on Friday January 7th that he believed the IRA to behind the largest robbery of banknotes in British or Irish history. He said the claim was backed by intelligence.

Last night the Chief Constable referred to his claim and stated: "That remains my position." A well-placed PSNI source queried why the IRA statement was being made now and not three weeks ago.

The British and Irish governments have accepted Mr Orde's claim with both the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, stating as recently as Monday they fully believed the IRA to be responsible.

The IRA had already claimed it was not behind the robbery, a claim supported on a number of occasions by Sinn Fein.

On Sunday, Mr Martin McGuinness said that if the IRA had carried out the raid it would have been "unacceptable".

He again said he believed IRA assertions that its volunteers were not involved in the robbery.

The Mid Ulster MP said: "If the IRA had been involved...there would have been a defining moment in Sinn Fein's leadership's work with the IRA. It would have been totally and absolutely unacceptable to me." None of the cash has been traced and the robbers' white Ford van, driven across the Border to belfast on the night of the theft, has not been found.

Police officers have carried out a series of raids in parts of west Belfast but no arrests have been made.

Unionists have denounced republicans following the robbery with the DUP calling for the removal of allowances and privileges at Westminster from Sinn Fein's four MPs. Mr David Burnside, the Ulster Unionist MP for South Antrim, has used parliamentary privilege to name republicans he believed to be connected to the robbery.

Last night Mr Ian Paisley junior rejected the IRA's denial.

"P O'Neill obviously stands for Pinocchio O'Neill," he said.

"Just because you deny something does not mean to say you did not do it. It is up to the IRA to prove they did not do it. Everyone knows and believes that they did do it." The robbery, which was carried out just two weeks after the two governments' failed efforts to broker a deal between Sinn Fein and the Rev Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists, has thrown the political process into turmoil.

Last month both the Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, and the British Prime Minister, Mr Tony Blair, believed they came close to securing a deal between the majority nationalist and unionist parties.

Yesterday (Tue) the Northern Bank said it is to move 40 employees from the city centre headquarters in Belfast where the robbery took place.

Staff affected are to be given new positions within the bank, either in other departments or branches. It said the move was being made to safeguard the welfare of staff.

One of the bank employees who was taken hostage for 24 hours on December 19th to facilitate the gang yesterday gave the first public account of how the robbery was conducted.

He explained in detail how the gang members took the families of two bank official hostage. The two men were threatened that if anything went wrong with the theft both they and their families would be killed.

There was no immediate Government reaction to the IRA statement. The Taoiseach is leading an Irish trade mission in China this week, and it was not possible to contact his official spokeswoman, who is accompanying the mission, because of the time difference.

In Dublin, a spokeswoman for the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr McDowell, said he would not be making any response last night.

Speaking in Beijing before the IRA statement was issued, the Taoiseach said the Government would reopen contacts with Sinn Féin early next week, despite its belief that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery.

He said: "I have to make a calculated judgment: is non-engagement better?

"My sense is that non-engagement has never worked in my lifetime, even if I don't feel at most enthusiastic. My sense is that I have to engage," he told The Irish Times.

He added: "We have some difficulties in the peace process. We have not been able to get a fully comprehensive agreement as we had worked for so long and so hard. We are in a stalemate position. The one thing that I am conscious of is that, whatever the arguments, we have to try and find a way on.

"The one thing I know in my political lifetime is that when there is stalemate and a vacuum that is when we get into problems," he said.

He said he had spent much of the time on the flight to China on Monday in discussions with some of his leading officials to try to find ways of moving matters forward.

© The Irish Times


Northern Bank Man Tells Of Ordeal

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

One of the Northern Bank staff forced to help an armed gang steal £26.5 million as his family were held hostage has spoken publicly about his ordeal.

Mr Chris Ward (23) was told by those who abducted him: "Look, Chris, we know everything about you and your family. We are going to take you away for 24 hours and if you co-operate everything will be OK. If you don't, you and your family are dead." He has recalled in detail how his family were taken hostage and how he was taken to the home of a bank colleague, also being held at gunpoint. He has also spoken about the detailed instructions he and the bank colleague Mr Kevin McMullan were given by the robbers and how the theft was carried out.

In interviews with the Irish News and BBC Northern Ireland, Mr Ward described the moment when he, his parents, his brother and his brother's girlfriend were taken hostage on Sunday, December 19th, in west Belfast.

"We were all made to swear that we would co-operate with the gang. I was told to go upstairs and get my work uniform as I was going to be taken away." He told how he was taken to his colleague's home in Loughinisland, Co Down. He recalled arriving at Mr McMullan's house which was in total darkness except for the light of a fridge which had been left open.

"I was told to sit down and lie on a mattress where Kevin was also tied," he said.

"I was in such a state one of the gang kicked me. He told Kevin to calm me down or someone would get hurt." He said the gang questioned Mr McMullan at length about the bank's security procedures. At 3 a.m. they were ordered to get some sleep.

"They told us we had a big day ahead of us and we had to make sure everything went right or someone would be killed." At 6 a.m. the gang left the house and left mobile phones with the two hostages, ordering them to keep in touch with them throughout the day.

"By then Kevin had told me the gang had taken his wife, Karen, away," Mr Ward said.

They then had to go to work as normal at midday. They travelled together by car, but then entered the Northern Bank separately so as not to appear unusual.

"You had to act as if nothing was wrong. . . it was very difficult to do. But you knew in the back of your head that you had to do it - that you couldn't tell anybody.

"If you phoned this confidential helpline that the bank say you have to, your family were gone - that's the reality of this."

Mr Ward give further details of a dummy run he was ordered to make before the bulk of the £26.5 million was taken.

"I just walked out of the bank and that was it, with over £1 million in my bag." He gave it to another gang member on a Belfast street who identified himself by saying: "All right, Chris, have you got something for me for Christmas?"

He said at no time did the robbers enter the Northern Bank. Instead the two men carried dozens of boxes containing the cash to the robbers' white Ford van.

After the robbery was completed the two men were told to drive to Mr Ward's home after 9 p.m. where they were met by three gang members. "After some time the gang told us that Kevin's wife was safe and they were leaving."

© The Irish Times


SF Remarks On Woman's Killing Widely Criticised

Mark Brennock, Chief Political Correspondent

Government and opposition politicians have denounced Mr Mitchel McLaughlin's assertion that the IRA killing in 1972 of Jean McConville was not a crime. Her son yesterday demanded that Mr McLaughlin resign his position within Sinn Féin.

Mr McLaughlin's remarks were made on RTÉ's Questions & Answers programme on Monday night. Asked by the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, if he would classify the shooting of Ms McConville as a crime, he said: "I think it was wrong". Asked again if he thought it was a crime, he replied: "No, I do not".

Jean McConville, a widowed mother of 10, was abducted and killed by the IRA in 1972. Her remains were found on Shelling Beach, Co Louth, in 2003.

The McConville family has always said she was killed because she went to the aid of an injured British soldier. The IRA said she was an informer, a charge the family has always rejected.

The Labour Party leader, Mr Pat Rabbitte, said yesterday that against the background of Mr McLaughlin's comments "and the clear indications of continuing criminality by sections of the republican movement, one must view with deep concern the stated intention of the Taoiseach to resume contact with Sinn Féin on his return from China as if nothing had happened.

"Any civilised society must consider the abduction and murder of a mother of 10 children to be a crime of considerable barbarism," he said.

"The recent bank robbery, too, which put a number of lives at risk, was a crime the magnitude of which cannot be understated."

The Fine Gael leader in the Seanad, Mr Brian Hayes, said Sinn Féin's "campaign to say that past atrocities were not crimes is part of a campaign to rewrite history for their own propaganda.

"It is important to continue to tell young people who were not around that these were crimes.

"Around 1,500 people were murdered by the IRA, and it is important to say that they were crimes in all cases.

"This notion that in the IRA you cannot commit a crime because your actions are legitimate is an astonishing claim to make."

Mr Michael McConville yesterday called on Mr McLaughlin to resign his position in Sinn Féin because of his comments. "To me taking human life is wrong. It doesn't matter what the circumstances are. It's wrong to kill," he said.

He said he had met the Sinn Féin president, Mr Gerry Adams to discuss the killing, and he hoped to meet him again shortly.

Mr Adams had not made remarks in line with those made by Mr McLaughlin, and he hoped his series of meetings with Mr Adams might be fruitful.

Mr McLaughlin also appeared to agree with Mr McDowell that he (Mr McLaughlin) believed the IRA was the legitimate government of this country.

Mr McDowell said: "Mitchel and his colleagues believe that any volunteer carrying out any authorised action on behalf of the IRA doesn't commit a crime because the IRA is the legitimate government of this country.

"That's what they all believe, and that's why shooting Jean McConville, this poor woman, in the head is not a crime in your book because it was authorised by a court-martial of the IRA."

Mr McLaughlin replied: "Yes, and I believe it happened in the context of conflict."

A Fianna Fáil TD, Mr Brendan Smith, described this remark as "a serious affront to everyone who values our democracy . . .

"It is hard to comprehend how any party can claim to be committed to democratic politics and the path of peace while at the same time maintaining that an unelected, unaccountable military junta is the rightful government of this country."

He called on Mr McLaughlin to withdraw his remarks. "The people of Ireland under our Constitution elect the Government in free elections.

"It is disgusting for Sinn Féin to suggest a backroom cabal are this country's legitimate government.

"As a democrat, I say unequivocally to Sinn Féin: It is the Irish people, not the IRA, who decide who governs Ireland."

On Questions & Answers, Mr McDowell also said he believed the dead IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands was a criminal.

Mr Arthur Morgan, the Sinn Féin TD for Louth, where the remains of Ms McConville were found by accident in 2003, said yesterday he did not think her killing was a criminal act.

On LMFM local radio he said "dreadful things happen" in war situations, including the killing of informers.

© The Irish Times


Jean McConville: Her Story

Dan Keenan, Northern News Editor

On December 7th, 1972, IRA members forcibly took Mrs Jean McConville, a recently widowed mother of 10, from her flat in Divis in the Lower Falls area of Belfast.

She was questioned, shot dead and her body eventually disposed of on Shelling beach, Co Louth.

That year saw 496 deaths as a result of the conflict and such was the toll in December alone that Mrs McConville's name competed for public attention with many others. It was not until the New Year of 1973 that word filtered out about her disappearance.

Mrs McConville was a Protestant who married Mr Arthur McConville and was disowned by her family for marrying a Catholic and going to live in nationalist west Belfast.

She was accused by her killers of being an informer, a charge the family still denies. Some believe her real "crime" was to have gone to the aid of a dying British soldier near her home.

Following the ceasefires, and after a series of searches for the "Disappeared", who had been secretly murdered by the paramilitaries, her remains were found in Co Louth in August 2003.

© The Irish Times


Contact With SF Resumes Next Week

Mark Hennessy, Political Correspondent

The Government will reopen contacts with Sinn Féin early next week, despite its belief that the IRA was involved in the Northern Bank robbery, the Taoiseach has said.

Speaking in Beijing last night, Mr Ahern said: "I have to make a calculated judgment: is non-engagement better?

"My sense is that non-engagement has never worked in my lifetime, even if I don't feel at most enthusiastic. My sense is that I have to engage," he told The Irish Times.

The Taoiseach's declaration is likely to lead to criticism from some quarters convinced that the Sinn Féin should suffer penalties for the IRA's alleged involvement in the £26 million robbery.

Mr Ahern said last night: "All of the parties have been on to us. That is the reality.

"We are in a difficult position, if you look how close we were in March 2003, October 2003 and later.

"We are back a long way. That is the reality. Non-engagement would only put us back further," he said.

The Taoiseach declined to enter the controversy caused by the refusal of a leading Sinn Féin member, Mr Mitchel McLaughlin, to label the killing of Ms Jean McConville by the IRA in the early 1970s as a crime.

Saying that he had not seen RTÉ's Questions And Answers, where Mr McLaughlin made the remarks, the Taoiseach said: "I am not aware of the programme, or what was said.

"We have some difficulties in the peace process. We have not been able to get a fully comprehensive agreement as we had worked for so long and so hard.

"We are in a stalemate position. The one thing that I am conscious of is that, whatever the arguments, we have to try and find a way on.

"The one thing I know in my political lifetime is that when there is stalemate and a vacuum that is when we get into problems," he said.

He said he had spent much of the time on the flight to China on Monday in discussions with some of his leading officials to try to find ways of moving matters forward.

© The Irish Times


Greater Church Role In Peace Process Advocated

Alison Healy

Christians in the Republic have a responsibility to be active participants in the Northern Ireland peace process, instead of criticising it from their armchairs, the Archbishop of Dublin, Dr Diarmuid Martin, said yesterday.

Since taking up his post, he said, he had been struck by the tendency to think that the peace process was primarily a matter for churches in Northern Ireland.

"There is also a responsibility for Christian believers in the rest of Ireland to be active participants in ensuring the success of the peace process, never just sitting, however critically, in our armchairs," Dr Martin said.

"The peace process in Northern Ireland will require a new church culture, North and South."

The Archbishop was speaking at St Finian's Lutheran Church in Dublin as part of Christian Unity Week.

He also said that disunity within Christian churches was a scandal. "It is a scandal to believers and an obstacle to unbelievers. Our disunity hinders people who seek unity and hope in our world from looking towards Jesus, our peace, as a source of unity," Dr Martin said.

Christian churches had travelled a long way together in their search for unity, he said. "We have become more open to other traditions of Christian piety, of forms of worship. We still, however, have our rivalries. There are still aspects of each other's practice which at times amuse, at times irritate."

The need for unity was important as we welcomed many new cultures into our communities, Dr Martin said. "When we reinforce prejudice, disunity and division we cannot be said to be following Christ's teaching."

The Archbishop said that, in the future, a united Ireland should refer to "the new kind of unity and Irish identity which would emerge as Ireland welcomes to its shores and into our communities peoples of many new cultures".

Christians must work with all in our society to create a new religious and civil culture, Dr Martin said. There was a temptation to think that moves towards unity would make Christian churches more popular in modern culture, but it might not, he suggested.

Nevertheless, people should always have the courage "to go against the stream, even to be considered and proclaimed fools" for their beliefs.

Dr Martin also pointed out that, while Roman Catholic numbers were still very high by European standards, it would be foolish not to recognise that many people were still attracted by a secularist view of life.

"We should not underestimate how a secularist viewpoint can be full of caring and service and be the source of meaning in people's lives," Dr Martin said.

"The goodness of many young people may be less and less attributable to explicit Christian belief. For many young people the 'primacy of Christ' in their lives is less and less a truly religious primacy."

It was important to ensure that young people were not turned off from the message of Jesus, Dr Martin added.

© The Irish Times


Bewley's Plans To Extend Dublin Hotel

Christine Newman

Dublin City Council has decided to grant planning permission to Bewley's to extend and refurbish its hotel to upper levels on Westmoreland Street, Dublin.

It is one of three planning applications by the hotel group to the council relating to the site.

A spokeswoman for Bewley's Café Hotels Ltd said the permission granted was only one aspect of the plans for the site.

It was waiting for the council's decisions on the others, and everything depended on whether permission was granted for those.

In the permission granted, Bewley's Oriental Cafés Ltd applied to Dublin City Council to alter and extend the existing hotel at 10/11/12 Westmoreland Street, 19/20 Fleet Street and 1-5 Prices Lane, which are protected structures.

The link at the back between the upper levels of the hotel will be extended to the upper levels of Westmoreland Street, with a proposal that this area be used for more bedrooms.

The extension will be into an area at present occupied by the Dublin School of English, which is a tenant of Bewley's.

A spokesman for the school said yesterday: "We have a current lease. We have been approached by Bewley's, and certain matters are under discussion."

The hotel group's spokeswoman said:

"The Dublin Language School is a tenant, and Bewley's will be discussing with all their tenants what their wishes are in respect of their leases."

The area occupied by the school is on the upper floors above the café, and the permission has allowed amendments to the internal layout and front facade windows.

Other changes include internal and external refurbishment, new common areas, access to toilets in the main building and a glazed access atrium on the rear facade.

Appeals against the Dublin City Council decision are expected to be made to An Bord Pleanála. These must be lodged within four weeks.

The other applications by Bewley's with Dublin City Council include proposals for the relocation of the hotel reception area, restaurant and new cocktail bar to the ground-floor café rooms.

This would include a new café entrance, canopy and additional street lighting on to Prices Lane. There would be a new ramp and café tables on the Fleet Street pavement.

The hotel group proposes removal of the existing modern mezzanine level and the removal and change of use of the existing ground-floor front servery area to Westmoreland Street from a café to retail shop.

© The Irish Times


Experts To Claim NRA Defence Of Tara Route Is Flawed

Liam Reid

Three of the leading archaeological and academic experts on Tara are to claim before an Oireachtas committee today that the National Roads Authority (NRA) has failed to rebut their opinion that the proposed M3 motorway route will irrevocably damage part of the Tara archaeological complex.

The Oireachtas Environment Committee is due to take evidence from academic experts opposed to the routing of the M3 through the Tara/Skryne valley in Co Meath, as part of a wider hearing into the impact of the road on the national monument of Tara.

The NRA has said that the route does not affect the Tara site, as it is located more than a mile away from the Hill of Tara. Archaeologists working for the NRA have identified nearly 40 separate archaeological sites along the controversial section of the route, although the authority has said these are not of sufficient significance to necessitate a rerouting.

The issue is currently with the Minister for the Environment, Mr Roche, who is to decide on whether to grant licences for their excavation. If he doesn't, the road will have to be rerouted away from the valley.

In a joint submission, Dr Edel Bhreathnach, an early Irish historian, and her colleagues, archaeologists Mr Conor Newman and Mr Joe Fenwick, are to argue that such sites are part of a wider complex that makes up the Tara site.

The three, who have worked together on Tara for the last 15 years, have said that the NRA has made only traffic and economic arguments in favour of the route, and has never been able to disprove their research that the Tara site is much wider than one hill.

The three are also to ask the committee to seek the opinions of various State organisations, including the Heritage Council, the National Museum, and archaeologists at the Department of the Environment, who they say have remained "silent" on the debate.

Other submissions today are expected to focus on the legal aspects of the plan, and proposals to mount a legal challenge against the route, should it get the go-ahead. The committee is also due to take submissions from other groups opposed to the motorway route, along with experts from the National Roads Authority, including Save Tara/Skryne, which has collected 3,000 submissions from the public in opposition to the route, including singers Ronnie Drew and Shane McGowan.

The Oireachtas hearings come amid increasing controversy over the route, which is already becoming an issue for the forthcoming Meath by-election.

Local business and development groups have come out strongly in support of the current route.

© The Irish Times

Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005

Comments: Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?