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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)
January 19, 2005
01/19/05 – Adams’ Fury Over Bank Claim
Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin Rejects Resignation Call
Overall Table of Contents
Table of Contents - Jan 2005
UT 01/19/05 Adams' Ahern Fury Over Bank Claim
IP 01/19/05 Martin McGuinness: Accusations And Agendas
BT 01/19/05 IRA's Denial Of Heist Rejected –A(2)
BB 01/19/05 SF Chair Rejects Resignation Call
IP 01/19/05 Intelligence, Opinions And Illusions
NY 01/19/05 NY Times: Police Fear IRA Is Turning To Organized Crime
BT 01/19/05 Parades Body 'Fatally Flawed'
UT 01/19/05 Londonderrry Man Jailed Over Bloody Sunday
BT 01/19/05 New Gun Laws To Cut Restrictions
BT 01/19/05 Student Charged In Holohan Case Moved To 'Safer' Prison
TV 01/18/05 The View: Book - Heaven Lies About Us -VO
TV 01/18/05 The View: Play – Swansong -VO
TV 01/18/05 The View: Performance - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh -VO
The View: Book - Heaven Lies About Us -Eugene McCabe is a novelist, short story writer and playwright. He’s best known for books like 'Christ in the Fields' and 'Death and Nightingales' and of course for his trilogy of plays 'Victims', which caused quite a stir back in the 1970s. His latest book of 12 stories, entitled 'Heaven Lies About Us', takes us deeper again into McCabe's own territory, the borderlands of Monaghan and Fermanagh.
The View: Play - Swansong - 'Swansong', the latest one-man play from Conor McDermottroe, tells the story of the deeply unnerving Occi, a sensitive but violent man looking for recognition and a place to belong. It’s a dark but often humorous story as we follow his unhinged adventures in murder and mayhem.
The View: Performance - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh - Mairéad Ní Mhaonaigh has taken some time out from Altan to do a nationwide tour entitlted 'Roots and Relations' for Music Network, along with her husband Dermot Byrne - also from Altan - and her nephew Ciarán Ó Maonaigh.
Adams' Ahern Fury Over Bank Claim
Bertie Ahern needs to explain to Sinn Fein why he made claims that senior leaders in the party knew that the IRA carried out the £26.5 million Northern Bank raid, Gerry Adams claimed today.
After the IRA officially denied carrying out last month`s robbery on the bank`s Belfast headquarters, the Sinn Fein leader insisted the accusation made by Chief Constable Hugh Orde and other political leaders was totally unfounded.
The West Belfast MP also claimed they had inflicted profound damage on the political process.
"What the Taoiseach (Mr Ahern) has accused me and Martin McGuinness of doing is being involved in a conspiracy, to be involved in the prior knowledge of the largest bank robbery in the history of these islands," he said.
"That is what he has accused us of being involved in and I find that highly offensive.
"I believe in straight talking on these issues.
"Some days we are a bit muted in how we deal with these issues, given our relationship with various parties to this process who have played, including the Taoiseach, a very important role in the whole development of the peace process.
"But when it comes down to it, when such an allegation is made with nothing to back it up and it is totally wrong, we need and we deserve both an explanation and some sense of where this path takes us."
Accusations And Agendas
By Martin McGuinness
Since the robbery at the Northern Bank on 28 December, the media has been rife with innuendo, speculation and rumor — all of it about what organization was capable of carrying out such an audacious and meticulously planned robbery. And so, without one scrap of evidence, the finger was pointed at the IRA by irresponsible media elements solely on the basis that, in their opinion, the IRA was the only organization capable of carrying out such an operation. The agenda was set. I spoke to the IRA and asked them if they were indeed responsible. I was assured that they were not. I believe this to be the case.
Hugh Orde claims that he has had 45 of his top detectives working round the clock since 28 December in an attempt to solve this case. Yet, when he went to the media on Friday to allege that the IRA was responsible, he did so declaring an unwillingness to produce any evidence to back up his allegations. When he first took up the post of RUC Chief Constable, he said that he would not act under political pressure and would not be a political policeman. Since his appointment, he has made at least four interventions at critical points in the Process based on nothing more than briefings from his so-called ‘Intelligence’ advisors. Nobody could describe these interventions and their timing as anything other than politically motivated.
There are clearly elements within the British system and unionism intent on wrecking the Peace Process and on using the robbery in Belfast as a pretext for this. They must not be allowed to succeed. And if Hugh Orde is not one of them, then he is certainly allowing himself to be manipulated by them.
Hugh Orde’s comments on Friday are nothing more than politically biased allegations. He has not produced one scrap of evidence. We are witnessing a renewed attempt to undermine the Peace Process. We need to think long and hard about who is setting this agenda and why.
This is more to do with halting the process of change which Sinn Féin has been driving forward than with anything that happened at the Northern Bank.
There is as much evidence to say that elements of the British Intelligence Agencies, and they would be more than capable of pulling off such a robbery, were responsible as there is to blame the IRA. Sound outlandish? But is it possible? Remember Castlereagh, the most burglar-proof British security base in the North of Ireland?
Hugh Orde’s predecessor, Ronnie Flanagan, initially said that it was an inside job, only to change his mind a few days later and blame the IRA, when the full ramifications of it being an inside job dawned on him or when the securocrats realized how it could be used to undermine republicanism’s contribution to the Peace Process. To this day, no evidence has been produced to implicate the IRA in the Castlereagh break-in, but the political damage was done.
Sinn Féin has a substantial electoral mandate achieved at the ballot box, something that no British Minister or securocrat has, and we will resist any attempt by them or anyone else to marginalize or criminalize our party or those who vote for us. We have told both the British and Irish governments so.
All previous campaigns to smash Sinn Féin, to criminalize and marginalize the republican struggle, failed, and so too will this one. Sinn Féin represents the majority of nationalists in the north and we will not dishonor their trust. We intend to deliver the change promised to the people. The securocrats and the DUP need to come to terms with this political reality.
I have no doubt that these allegations herald a full frontal assault on the Sinn Féin political project and on the integrity of our mandate in the run up to the Westminster and Local Government elections. And while we will give careful consideration as to how to respond to this as the situation develops, I am disappointed at the Taoiseach and Mark Durkan parroting the politically motivated accusations of the DUP and British securocrats.
There is no doubt that there are those within the NIO who will seek to exploit this situation to bring about the exclusion of Sinn Féin and ensure that a comprehensive deal will not be achieved. But the politics of exclusion failed for 30 years and any attempt to impose them again would not be tolerated.
I believe that we need to look at the facts. The IRA has made it clear that it did not carry out this robbery. Hugh Orde went to the media on Friday, 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. 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 Féin’s priority is to advance the Peace Process and to defend the rights of those who vote for us. Hugh Orde’s and the British Government’s actions over the last number of days has in effect written a ‘Wreckers’ Charter’ for those opposed to the process of change that we all worked so hard to put in place.
But we will not allow them to achieve their aims. We will continue to push the two governments on the need for them to deliver in partnership all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement that are still outstanding. Attempts by the DUP to use the present circumstances to further delay the program for change cannot be allowed to succeed.
We remain in contact with both governments and remain determined to continue to advance the Process. The governments know how much was achieved before Christmas and that the priority now must be to get the comprehensive deal across the line.
IRA issues official denial over North bank raid - Noeleen Leddy takes a look back at the story so far of the £26 million Northern Bank robbery
Tommie Gorman, Northern Editor, discusses the official denial by the IRA that it was involved in the bank raid
IRA's Denial Of Heist Rejected –A(2)
By Jonathan McCambridge
19 January 2005
The IRA's official denial that its members robbed the Northern Bank was today rejected by police and
political parties across Northern Ireland.
In a statement signed by P O'Neill, the Provisional IRA said it was not responsible for the £26.5m heist, stating: "We were not involved."
However, pressure continues to grow on Sinn Fein as it became clear that the statement was being greeted with widespread scepticism.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde has already said that the IRA carried out the raid in the week before Christmas.
A police spokesman said that was still their position despite the IRA statement.
He said: "The Chief Constable made a statement regarding who he believes was responsible for the robbery and that remains our position."
The British and Irish governments also stated earlier this week that they are 100% certain that the IRA was involved in the robbery.
The SDLP said it still believed the Irish government's assessment.
Party chairperson Patricia Lewsley said: "The Irish government, based on their own intelligence, was clear that the IRA was responsible.
"There was no way that the Taoiseach and Dermot Ahern would have said this unless they were absolutely convinced. Dermot Ahern even said he was 100% certain.
"There is no reason why the Irish government wouldn't tell the truth. The SDLP continues to believe the Irish government's assessment, which is also backed by Hugh Orde."
DUP Policing Board member Ian Paisley Jnr added: "P O'Neill obviously stands for Pinocchio O'Neill. 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."
SF Chair Rejects Resignation Call
Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin has rejected calls to resign over remarks he made about an IRA murder victim.
The party chairman said the killing of Jean McConville - one of the Disappeared - was not a criminal act.
Her family have criticised the comments, which were made on a current affairs programme on Irish state broadcaster RTE.
Fianna Fail TD for Cavan-Monaghan, Brendan Smith, has called on Mr McLaughlin to retract the remarks.
The Sinn Fein member also agreed with a remark that the IRA was "the only legitimate government of Ireland".
Mrs McConville, from west Belfast, was abducted and murdered by the IRA after she went to the aid of a fatally wounded British soldier outside her front door in 1972.
The 37-year-old was one of the nine so-called Disappeared people who were murdered by the IRA and secretly buried during the 1970s.
The mother-of-10's remains were found at Shelling Hill beach in County Louth in the Irish Republic in August 2003.
The McConville family has asked Mr McLaughlin to apologise or to resign.
But speaking on BBC Radio Ulster on Wednesday, he said he would not be leaving his post.
"Of course I won't resign, I'm entitled to my view in this respect," he said.
"I didn't introduce the topic into the discussion,
"I was pressing the minister for justice on the lack of action on outstanding issues such as collusion, criminality at the heart of the British Government as far as republicans are concerned and I think, on the ropes, the minister threw in Jean McConville."
Mr Smith, co-chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, described Mr McLaughlin's comments as "appalling".
They had led people to query the Sinn Fein chairman's "commitment to democratic politics, his commitment to the Good Friday Agreement", he said.
"We have a mandate - as politicians on this island - to implement the Good Friday Agreement.
"Here we have comments from a senior figure in a political organisation and it is obvious that he is not committed to making an effort to implement the will of the Irish people."
In October 2003, the IRA apologised for the grief caused to the families of the nine so-called Disappeared.
The organisation said it was sorry that the suffering of the families had continued for so long.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2005/01/19 09:20:58 GMT
© BBC MMV
Intelligence, Opinions And Illusions
Illusionist Derren Brown on TV last week demonstrated how easily people’s perception can be manipulated by someone telling them what they are already predisposed to believe. It’s been a bit like that here this week.
There is no evidence, no arrests, no significant finds, but for those people who already view all republicans as criminals, no further proof is required. Indeed, the very fact that there is no evidence appears sufficient to leave no doubt in their minds. And the chief magician in all of this? Hugh Orde.
“On the basis of the investigating work we have done to date, the evidence we have collected, the information we have collected, the exhibits we have collected and putting that all together and working through it, it is my opinion the Provisional IRA were responsible for the crime and all main lines of inquiry currently undertaken are in that direction,” Orde told the media.
Evidence, information, exhibits; it sounds impressive to those who want to believe but in the end all we are left with is the opinion of the PSNI Chief constable. And this is not the first time Hugh Orde has impacted on the political process by virtue of an opinion, his opinion.
Of course, there is another way of viewing this.
PSNI caught with its pants down
No matter what way you look at it, the PSNI was caught with its pants down. According to the media, a traffic warden reported ‘suspicious’ behavior outside the Northern Bank involving a ‘white van’. At the height of the Christmas shopping season, with banks and retail outlets heaving with cash, the PSNI’s response to a tip off about a possible robbery at a bank was to do almost nothing. They sent two uniformed officers on foot patrol to ‘take a look’. They saw nothing suspicious and no further action was taken.
It’s just before Christmas and Hugh Orde is watching the prospects of his £25,000 performance related bonus fade into oblivion, along with the reputation of his force. And there are no leads and no prospects of arrests, little hope of recovering the stolen millions and even less hope of securing convictions. Well, what can a PSNI Chief constable do?
Simple. Employ the old tactics of the RUC. Begin with a series of raids in nationalist areas at the homes of high profile republicans. Bring the media with you, handpicked journalist hacks who won’t mind if there are no facts to support the accusations and won’t ask too many difficult questions about the status of the PSNI ‘investigation’. Peddle the notion that the very fact that there is no evidence linking republicans to the robbery is indisputable ‘evidence’ of their involvement.
Pitch it high. Confronted with an adversary as ruthless, professional, disciplined, experienced, intelligent and rigorous as the IRA, how can any criticism be attached to the PSNI? Surely any fair-minded member of the Policing Board would not seek to penalize the Chief Constable and his less than efficient force?
The words of the Belfast Telegraph must have been music to Orde’s ears. “With their usual gall, republicans are challenging Mr. Orde to produce his evidence, but few will now accept the IRA’s claim that it was not involved,” said the Telegraph. “What other group would have the organizational skill and cold blooded ruthlessness to pull off such an audacious and violent robbery?” the newspaper continued.
The old RUC was never hot on investigation. In fact, they were often not even allowed to pursue an investigation by Special Branch, who intimidated and bullied the CID into accepting the primacy of a counter insurgency anti-republican agenda. The RUC rounded up the usual suspects, tortured and beat detainees into so called confessions, tampered with ‘evidence’ or, when it suited their political agenda, saw nothing, heard nothing and said nothing.
Of course, the PSNI is supposed to be a part of the new political dispensation, new policing for a new beginning. But with Patten yet to be fully implemented, Special Branch still in place and many former RUC officers within its ranks, given the slightest encouragement, the PSNI appears all too ready to revert to type.
True to form, the leadership of the Dublin Government did not contest Orde’s baseless accusations. Just after the Chief Constable’s press conference, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern announced his disappointment with the IRA. There were no queries as to the evidence behind the PSNI claim. All Ahern had to say on the matter was that the whole event was a setback for the peace process and that he was concerned the IRA could have been organizing the robbery while he was in talks with Sinn Féin. His response was similar to the one following the suspension of the Stormont Assembly in October 2002, after the PSNI uncovered an alleged IRA spy-ring. Over two years later, most of the ‘evidence’ in that case has been thrown out of court. But the Taoiseach has not learned anything from that — blind acceptance of the British line is still the order of the day.
Meanwhile, the media were working their magic, somehow knowing what the PSNI Chief was going to say even before he said it. “Orde will blame the IRA,” screamed the front-page banner headlines of the British Daily Mirror, hours before Orde was due to brief the media.
As the media swung into action, what one moment was mere opinion devoid of any demonstrative facts became pure assertion. “The Provos unmasked,” ran the Belfast Newsletter. And suddenly we were no longer dealing with a specific incident, as the politicking began. This was no longer a police investigation but a political witch-hunt.
“Peace in the balance as Orde points the finger at IRA,” said the Newsletter. “The Provisional IRA stood accused last night of stealing any chance of an early peace settlement,” wrote Gemma Murray.
“Prime Minister Tony Blair has come under increased pressure to exclude Sinn Féin from any future devolved government,” wrote Murray. “IRA link to robbery blows peace process out of the water,” ran the editorial of the Belfast Telegraph.
“Northern deal scuppered after IRA bank robbery,” declared Suzanne Breen of the Sunday Tribune. “The current talks process is effectively over after the statement from the Chief Constable Hugh Orde. Stephen Collins went further: “the involvement of the IRA does more than cast doubt on the sincerity of Sinn Féin’s commitment to democratic politics. It raises fundamental questions about the strategy pursued by the Irish and British governments for the past few years.”
And the media knew exactly where to look to reinforce their position. “DUP deputy leader Peter Robinson said if the International Monitoring Commission (IMC) reaches the same conclusion [as Orde], Sinn Féin should be excluded from government for a year,” recorded Breen. “In any future negotiations, the DUP would demand even greater proof than before,” said Robinson. “The pressure will not be on my party to lower the bar. The pressure will be for a higher bar.”
For anti-Agreement unionism, Orde’s opinion had become the talisman not only to undermine any prospect of a power sharing agreement emerging out of the current talks process but also any future negotiations. Meanwhile, Ian Paisley announced he would be visiting Downing Street to urge the British PM to fulfill that unionist dream of “a devolved administration to be set up without Sinn Féin”.
NIO Secretary of State Paul Murphy said there would be no rush to meet unionist demands and immediately exclude Sinn Féin from taking part in a power sharing government.
“I believe all parties have mandates and we have to respect them. But all of us have to respect the mandate of the Good Friday Agreement,” said Murphy.
Addressing the British House of Commons, Murphy backed Orde’s assessment but said the British Government still believed that power sharing provided the best long-term guarantee of peace and stability and would not abandon that ultimate goal.
Murphy said decisions and responses were now needed from Sinn Féin and the IRA. Without responses, the British Secretary of State said he could not see how it would be possible to reinvigorate the political talks. The governments would be considering how best to bring pressure to bear on the Republican Movement to complete the transition to exclusively peaceful and democratic means.
Sinn Féin responds
Speaking at a Westminster press conference, Sinn Féin chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said his party’s participation in the process and in any government was based entirely on its substantial electoral mandate and nothing else.
“We are the largest nationalist party in the Six Counties and the third largest party on the island of Ireland,” said McLaughlin.
“In contrast, Paul Murphy has no mandate from the Irish people and we will not tolerate attempts by him to sanction or demonize the Sinn Féin electorate,” he said.
Jumping to conclusions
Meanwhile, Vincent Browne of the Irish Times admitted, although he initially believed the robbery must have been the work of the IRA (“what other organization has the capacity, the military precision, the logistical know-how and manpower?”) that now he’s not so sure.
“Now it emerges that £41,000 was being laundered in Craigavon over the last few days and, apparently, this has nothing to do with the Northern Bank robbery. Where did this money come from?” asks Browne. According to the media, the Craigavon arrests involved the seizure of high denomination Northern Bank notes but the PSNI were quick to announce that the arrests had nothing to do with the Belfast robbery. Could that have something to do with the fact that those arrested were not republicans?
It’s sufficient to compel Browne to ask: “Is it good enough to put the whole political process on hold on the word of a police officer? Do we not know that police officers and intelligence chiefs get it wrong again and again?”
On the letters page of the Irish Times, a reader from County Laois put it better. “I was quite surprised at the unseemly and unquestioning haste, with which most people, including you, accepted the word of Hugh Orde that the IRA was responsible for the Northern bank robbery.
“His report was based on ‘intelligence’. Could this be related to the British Intelligence that was responsible for the report on Iraqi WMD that was used as an excuse for the illegal war on Iraq that has so far resulted in the slaughter of over 100,000 Iraqis?”
Nationalists deeply disappointed at Ahern remarks
Sinn Féin spokespersons reacted angrily to claims by the Taoiseach that the Sinn Féin leadership knew of plans to rob the Northern Bank in Belfast.
Party Chair Mitchel McLaughlin said Ahern’s remarks were “a direct attack on the integrity of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness.
“Many nationalists and republicans will be deeply disappointed that the Taoiseach has chosen to believe the British and to jump onto the DUP bandwagon of blame.
“That the Taoiseach should do this, after years of working closely with this party’s leadership in the peace process, is a grave blow and will be an encouragement to all those, particularly in the DUP, who have consistently sought to attack and undermine the efforts for peace.
“The Sinn Féin commitment to the Peace Process, and our willingness to face up to the challenges it presents, have been the dynamic sustaining the process and moving it forward, often through very difficult times.
“Sinn Féin will not be deflected from this, but the task is made more difficult when the governments attack our leadership in this way.”
Police Fear I.R.A. Is Turning Expertise To Organized Crime
By LIZETTE ALVAREZ
BELFAST - One of the largest bank robberies in these parts unfolded here with cinematic precision and boldness: under the gaze of thousands of Christmas shoppers, robbers drove away with $50 million in cash, without ever setting foot in the bank or leaving so much as a fingerprint.
So blunder-free was the Dec. 20 caper that investigators immediately focused on the one group they believed had the skill and wherewithal to pull off the job: the Irish Republican Army.
The I.R.A. vehemently denied any involvement, and Sinn Fein, the group's political wing, accused the police of trying to smear the party and undermine the Northern Ireland peace process. But the accusation, beyond stalling the already troubled peace effort, raised new worries that the I.R.A. had morphed into a flourishing criminal enterprise.
The role of both Protestant and Catholic paramilitary groups in organized crime, while always present, has grown considerably since Protestant and Catholic leaders in Northern Ireland signed a permanent cease-fire in 1998, police and other analysts here say. Organized crime has become so common in strife-free Northern Ireland, in fact, that some now call it Sicily Without the Sun.
The reason, says Ed Moloney, a former Irish journalist and author of "A Secret History of the I.R.A.," is simple enough. Troubled though it may be, the evolving peace process has stripped the I.R.A. of much of its political mission. "What to do with an army that doesn't go to war?" he said in an interview.
But while organized crime may be a logical choice for out-of-work soldiers - particularly in a region already blighted by high unemployment - it is also proving a frustrating and dangerous one, investigators say.
The police say they have had some luck in disrupting crime groups among Protestant Loyalists, which are less tightly organized. But in the case of the I.R.A., the discipline and organization honed in 30 years of conflict against the British Army have left the group uniquely positioned for post-conflict criminality, an advantage that is further bolstered by the group's tight control over Republican communities, where the I.R.A. remains both feared and admired.
"They have the expertise of terrorism," said a senior police official for the Police Service of Northern Ireland who spoke on condition of anonymity. "In terms of our role in trying to catch them, it's not impossible, but it's difficult because they are using techniques they have used during the war: a knowledge of forensics, the intimidation of witnesses. Very seldom do you get witnesses."
A November report by the Independent Monitoring Commission, in charge of tracking paramilitary activity, underscored the point as well.
"Seldom in the developed world has this high proportion of the most serious criminals been associated with groups originating in terrorism," it noted, "with an organizational structure and discipline, and the experience of planning, learning and conducting sophisticated clandestine operations, methods of handling money, and with traditions of extreme violence."
Such a history makes it relatively easy for the I.R.A. not only to launder money and smuggled goods, the police say, but also to keep a tight rein on informants, frustrating prosecution.
Last week, when Northern Ireland's police chief, Hugh Orde, made his suspicion of the I.R.A. public, he unleashed a cadre of 45 detectives to crack the case and recover the money. But some investigators with experience in tracking what they say are I.R.A.-linked crimes know it will be a difficult job.
One police official speaking on the condition of anonymity said there were four significant robberies with clear ties to the I.R.A. in the legal pipeline, though the official said secrecy laws forbade the releasing of details in the cases. "These cases are difficult to get in the legal system," the official said.
The police also suspect the I.R.A. in a number of crimes involving the smuggling of goods like cigarettes, alcohol and fuel, as well as armed robbery, counterfeiting compact discs and DVD's, and extortion.
Even with the creation of the Organized Crime Task Force in 2000, a multi-agency group, law enforcement officials say they have met with little success in securing charges and convictions of prominent I.R.A. figures.
The I.R.A.'s suspected criminal enterprises are all the more worrisome because of the group's continued ties to Sinn Fein, its powerful political arm, though the precise extent of cooperation between them remains murky.
Sinn Fein, Ulster's largest Catholic or Nationalist party, is a signer of the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement that aims to set up a shared government in Northern Ireland.
"Loyalist gangsters are every bit as hideous," said Prof. Richard English, who teaches politics at Queen's University in Belfast and wrote the "Armed Struggle: The History of the I.R.A." "But they don't have a political party that will get the Ministry of Justice or the Ministry of Education."
The police suspicions, publicly backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain and Prime Minister Bertie Ahern of Ireland, have now all but scuttled talks between Sinn Fein and its rival, the Protestant Democratic Unionist Party.
Government officials and analysts say it is unacceptable at this stage for Sinn Fein - which holds Parliamentary seats in both Ireland and Westminster - to be allied with a private army accused of being involved in organized crime.
Even Prime Minister Ahern, an important ally for Sinn Fein, said his patience had run out. The robbery was "a very serious setback, and public confidence has been undermined," he said in a radio interview.
A Sinn Fein leader, Gerry Kelly, said in an interview that the police had accused the I.R.A. of a panoply of crimes in recent years but had produced little hard proof. Sinn Fein and the I.R.A. have had a long, complicated relationship with the police force, which remains mostly Protestant.
Mr. Kelly said the police were "relying on intelligence officials who have been known to undermine not only Sinn Fein, but the whole system."
In an interview published Friday with The Irish Times, Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein's president, went a step further, saying that it was former "disgruntled" police officers who may have pulled off the bank job.
"What happens if and when it emerges the I.R.A. weren't involved?" Mr. Adams said. "Do you all apologize to me?"
Detective Superintendent Andy Sproule, who is leading the investigation, said in an interview that the decision to focus on the I.R.A. was based on the way the job was carried out: its sophistication, the lack of fingerprints, the use of hostages and the strong-arming of a bank employee who lived in a staunchly I.R.A.-friendly neighborhood.
On Dec. 19, men dressed as police officers turned up at the house of Karen and Kevin McMullan, a senior Northern Bank executive, bearing bad news: a relative had been killed in a car accident. It was a ruse that allowed them in the door.
Once inside, the men drew their guns and tied up Mr. McMullan. Then they blindfolded his wife, took away her shoes, forced her to wear a one-piece coverall and drove her away from home.
A few miles away, in the Republican neighborhood, Poleglass, armed and masked men also intruded on the home of Chris Ward, a junior bank employee. A few held Mr. Ward's family at gunpoint; the rest drove Mr. Ward to Mr. McMullan's house.
The two men were given a blunt ultimatum: If they did not cooperate with the robbery, their relatives would be killed. The next day, Dec. 20, the men followed instructions and showed up for work, in the heart of the city's shopping district, at noon, as usual. Nobody expressed surprise when Mr. McMullan told the rest of the staff to knock off early to go Christmas shopping.
At 6 p.m., the two men used their secure passes and keys to enter the inner vault depository of the bank, stuffed with cash for the city's A.T.M. machines. They carried out $2.2 million in a bag, in a test run, Mr. Sproule, the detective said. Then they collected the rest of the $50 million, bringing it out in bags and boxes and handing it to a man who concealed his face with a scarf and hat. Shoppers buzzed around them.
The money was loaded into a white Ford truck, which drove away for the last time at 8:12 p.m.
The robbers later freed Mrs. McMullan in a forest. It was only when she made her way to a house, shaken and suffering from frostbite, that the police were alerted.
"This was a really frightening ordeal for both families," Mr. Sproule said. "They were traumatized."
None of the money was recovered, and although the Northern Bank agreed to begin withdrawing all of its bank notes and issuing new ones, many believe it may be too late.
Parades Body 'Fatally Flawed'
MPs call for reform of commission
By Michael McHugh
19 January 2005
Efforts to resolve parading issues are "fatally flawed" and need to be urgently reviewed, a high-powered parliamentary body has told the Government.
The Northern Ireland Affairs Committee has urged the Parades Commission to review its approach to mediation between opposing sides, as well as providing greater transparency when giving its determinations.
The recommendations are contained in this month's generally positive report into the 1998 parading legislation, which lauded the commission for helping to ease tensions surrounding marches, and advocated its retention.
Northern Ireland Office Minister Ian Pearson is considering the commission's future on the back of Sir George Quigley's report into the body in 2002.
The Affairs Committee recommendations included:
Making objections to parades clearer and more accessible to organisers.
Taking forward its proposal to develop a "compliance and post mortem" procedure to provide parade organisers with detailed feedback, in good time, on issues brought to the commission's attention during the marching season.
Fuller explanations and greater detail about the potential impact of a parade on community relations and on human rights and public order.
Reviewing its involvement in mediation as a matter of urgency and strengthening its pool of authorised officers.
The report stated: "We are extremely concerned that mediation currently appears insufficiently rigorous and challenging, and is perceived by some as a "box-ticking" exercise."
"Such a process is fatally flawed and will not achieve lasting resolutions to parade disputes.
"We urge the Parades Commission to review and develop its approach to promoting and facilitating mediation as a matter of urgency."
Parading organisations and nationalist residents have complained about a lack of transparency and consistency in the commission's determinations and the committee said more detailed determinations were necessary.
"We believe that the objections being raised about parades need to be made clearer to parade organisers, including public order considerations where appropriate and possible."
The study also rejected suggestions in Sir George's report that responsibility for restricting parades imposed on public order grounds should revert to the police.
The report also called for discussions between the commission and the police about a register of bands which take part in parades.
A commission spokesman said: "We welcome publication of the report and we look forward to examining its findings in detail."
Londonderrry Man Jailed Over Bloody Sunday
A Londonderry man has become the first person jailed because of Bloody Sunday.
Local republican Martin Doherty had been called as a witness by the Saville Inquiry and given the code-name Provisional IRA nine.
But he refused to give any evidence, claiming he wasn`t even present on Bloody Sunday.
Earlier this month, the High Court imposed a three-months sentence for contempt of the Inquiry, and just over an hour ago police took him from his Creggan home to Maghaberry Prison.
New Gun Laws To Cut Restrictions
19 January 2005
New firearms legislation that relaxes some restrictions on guns will come into effect at the beginning of February, the Northern Ireland Office has announced.
Under the new law certificates for holding firearms will be extended from three years to five years, although the NIO says renewals will be more "rigorous".
The new law also says low-powered air rifles, paintball guns and de-activated guns will no longer require certificates, and there are provisions to allow shotguns and estate rifles to be loaned out.
New firearm holders will be required to demonstrate they can shoot safely, as will shooters already holding a certificate but wishing "to acquire a firearm of a significantly different type."
The new law will also allow firearm dealers to exchange one shotgun for another.
Security Minister Ian Pearson said the changes will "enhance" public safety.
"This new legislation is the result of a detailed review of firearms controls in Northern Ireland," he said.
"I believe that the new controls are relevant, effective and proportionate and that they strike a balance between public safety and the reasonable expectations of those who enjoy shooting as a sport or leisure pursuit and the firearms trade."
Student Charged In Holohan Case Moved To 'Safer' Prison
By Tom Brady and Ralph Riegel
19 January 2005
The student charged with the manslaughter of 11-year-old Robert Holohan was moved to a new prison for his own safety yesterday.
Wayne O'Donoghue (20) was in an isolation cell at the Midlands jail in Portlaoise last night after a review of his case by prison authorities.
O'Donoghue, who was met by a barrage of abuse as he was led into Midleton district court on Monday night, was remanded in custody to Cork prison rather than St Patrick's Institution in Dublin at the request of his solicitor.
He was held overnight in Cork but the authorities decided yesterday to transfer O'Donoghue to the Midlands jail, which was built only four years ago and has capacity for 515 prisoners.
Prison officials said Cork had facilities to hold remand prisoners who had to be placed under protection but the modern structures at the Midlands were thought to be more suitable.
"We have an obligation to provide safe and secure custody for all prisoners and this transfer was determined by operational reasons," one official said.
"There are other prisoners in the same category as Wayne O'Donoghue but their names are not as widely known since this case has been well publicised nationally and we have to take extra precautions," he added.
Prisoners charged with offences involving children are often placed under special protection while in jail because of the threat of attack from other inmates.
O'Donoghue, from Ballyedmund, Midleton, was arrested by gardai on Sunday night after a major investigation into the disappearance of his 11-year-old neighbour, Robert Holohan on January 4.
During the court hearing, defence solicitor Frank Buttimer indicated that the second-year engineering student at Cork Institute of Technology had instructed him not to apply for bail.
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